Will Android Destroy the World?

by Jeff Wiener on May 2, 2013

Whether it’s simply hyperbole intended to get your attention or a serious threat to our personal and national security, there is a growing discussion across the mobile security sector that Google’s little green droid is a “ticking time bomb” of destructive potential, leading some to speculate that Android may in fact be the cause of a major disaster in the not-so-distant future.

In fact, while we have long known about such demonstrations like those from security firm McAfee that showed it can remotely hack an Android phone and cause it to overheat and fail, we have seen far more alarming demonstrations of Android’s destructive power of late, with one researcher demonstrating at this year’s Hack in the Box security conference in Amsterdam that he could use an Android phone to hijack the navigational controls of an airliner….and this could very well be only the tip of the iceberg.

This of course raises a host of questions: What, if anything, will Google do about the security vulnerabilities inherent in Android? Could Android survive as a mobile operating system should it be used in Cyberterrorism? Could Google itself survive? And finally, what would the mobile landscape look like following Android’s demise?

This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve written about the downfall of Android, but it certainly stands as the first I’ve written about the destructive potential of Google’s free open source OS. As tech analyst Rob Enderle explains, the conversation about the security flaws inherent in Android has started to migrate away from how easy it is to hack towards what hackers could actually do with these devices once they have control.

Regarding the capability of controlling an aircraft, Spanish researcher Hugo Teso explained how by tinkering with the Android development software he was able to create a malicious piece of code he could imbed in a plane’s flight management system, allowing the user to ostensibly turn the plane into a giant remote controlled toy.

While thankfully Teso has stated he’s only providing full details only to the manufacturers and air-safety agencies concerned, it gives you a glimpse of the what sort of destruction the human brain can imagine when its offered an unmonitored development platform like Android.

Now if Android wasn’t an increasingly annoying headache to Google before, I would wager a guess that these growing security concerns—which will shortly be followed by growing litigation against the company—simply add more fuel to the company’s impetus to transition away from Android towards its own homegrown Chrome OS.

But should Android be responsible, or at least a major component, in a catastrophic disaster, it would almost surely spell the end for the mobile OS, leading many to wonder what the mobile landscape would look like in a post-Android world. Would Blackberry find its resurgence window with Blackberry 10, would Microsoft finally gain traction with its Windows Phone brand, or would a relatively unknown mobile entity like Mozilla capture the hearts and minds of the mobile public?

While its certainly interesting to speculate about the mobile future, I think we all can agree that we hope Google will shore up these deficiencies in Android before a disaster happens, letting the little green droid fail through the channels I have long predicted, the mass exodus of now successful Android partners.

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