Android Virtual Machine on RIM Tablet, A Security Concern?
The rumors were confirmed and at the end it looks like that the forthcoming RIM Tablet, named Playbook, will be able to run Android Applications. This will be possible thanks to an optional “app player” that will provide an application run-time environment for Android v2.3 code (no mention so far for Honeycomb), allowing users to download Android applications directly from BlackBerry App World and run them on their (future) BlackBerry PlayBook.
This does not sound new to me (at this link an article in Italian in which I discussed about the rumors of an Android Virtual Machine for the Playbook), but in my opinion the point of interest does not rely on the fact that the announced “app player” builds a bridge between the Android and RIM worlds (as a matter of fact the RIM Tablet will offer also a second “app player” for the Blackberry Java applications), but it is really interesting to point out the information security perspective since it looks like that the paradigm Write (Malware Once), Use Many, will undoubtedly come true.
We know that, from the beginning of the 2011, the poor Android is suffering of multiple infections, and this peak of malware is not only due to the fact that the Google platform captured #1 ranking in the mobile platforms but, most of all, to the fact that the number of users which leverage the Android capabilities for professional use is growing day by day. Of course, the effort for developing malware is commensurate with the value of the target, hence this evidence (together with the fact that Android is an Open Platform and the android market policies are not as strict as the ones from Cupertino) explains why the Android is a little too much sick in this period (and also because, in my opinion, security issues are the main reasons at the base of Mountain View’s decision to hold Honeycomb tight, not making its source code publicly available (at least so far).
Now, the perspective to use the Android as a “malware bridge” to other platforms might sound very appealing to cyber crooks, so this improbable openness from the RIM side could become a little bit embarrassing for Google from an Infosec perspective, further encouraging other malware writers to address their efforts towards the Android. Android Virtual Machine spreading for sure makes life easier for developers but, undoubtedly ends up making it harder (from a security perspective) for users and IT Manager.
And what about the future? It looks like the scenario could become even more complicated since the Android Virtual Machine (the notorious Dalvik, in the middle of a lawsuit against Larry Ellison’s Oracle) could soon land on other devices. As a matter of fact, Myriad, a member of the Open Handset Alliance, which collaborates with Google to develop Android is working for an Alien Android (that is a Dalvik compatible Virtual Machine, called Alien Dalvik) capable to run Native Android application on alien platform, furthermore at the same speed of the Original Android (so, not bad, the malware infections will propagate at the same speed then the original platform). Of course this could sound even more appealing for malware writers.
Definitively the Android is no longer satisfied to be reference platform for the market, rather seems to be pointing to became the reference platform also for malware. Who knows if one day we will ever see an Apple infected by an Android?