Google’s Android head Sundar Pichai has been answering questions at Mobile World Congress and French site FrAndroid provided a roundup of a few of the more interesting snippets (in addition to his denial that Google tried to buy WhatsApp).
Update: Google provided a direct transcript (though no video was made available) in which not surprisingly Pinchai is a little less self criticizing:
Sorry, the premise of the question is because Android is open, it has more security issues? Respectfully, I’m not sure that’s a correct premise of the question. Open platforms historically undergo a lot of scrutiny, but there are a lot of advantages to having an open source platform from a security standpoint. I would argue that it’s the best way for a platform to be secure, because every researcher in the world can inspect it, every developer in the world can inspect it, and I think that contributes a lot to Android security.
Android was built to be very, very secure. The thing that you’re seeing is because Android is an open platform, many people can ship Android in many different ways and so there are some partners when they ship devices, they have an older version of Android. And sure you can have a security vulnerability there, but that doesn’t mean Android isn’t secure. We go to great lengths–the depth of work in Android to make it secure; the depth of work done by Google Play…Google Play automatically scans and verifies thousands of applications for malware. We track data on this. It’s state of the art in terms of what we do. What you see across the ecosystem…people will ship good phones and keep them updated…you will have some phones that will not be updated. That’s where we see issues. Not Android at a fundamental level.
As long as you’re on a phone and able to update, Android is very very secure.It’s designed to be very very secure. I would go as far to say — open systems are far more secure. We do this on the browser side. Chrome is very secure. The fact that some things are open, by any stretch of the imagination, does not make it any less secure.
Malware targets where users are. When you say numbers like 90% of malware is targeting Android, you know, I hate to point out that if you’re a smart business person running this malware company, that’s what you should do. It’s the wrong way to look at the lens. Obviously, you will always see more malware targeting Android because Android is used more than any smartphone platform by a pretty substantial difference. I think that drives a lot of it so I understand that part of it. What matters much more is – as a user, if you use Android, are you fundamentally more compromised? We don’t think so.”
Responding to a question about malware on the Android platform, Pichai said:
We cannot guarantee that Android is designed to be safe, the format was designed to give more freedom. When people talk about 90% of malware for Android, they must of course take into account the fact that it is the most popular operating system in the world. If I had a company dedicated to malware, I would also be addressing my attacks on Android …
Asked about the odd hybrid user-interface of the Nokia X range of phones, he said he didn’t understand the thinking.
Sundar laughed and explained that this confirms the high openness of Android. “It shows that when we say that Android is a free operating system, we do not lie, it’s true”. He still said he did not “see clearly” Microsoft’s strategy.
He also downplayed Samsung’s decision to use Tizen rather than Android for its Gear 2 watches, describing it as just one of many hundreds of products and that he was confident that Samsung would stick with Android for its high-end smartphones, even looking ahead a full year to the Galaxy S6.