Android and Malware

Categories: The Server Room
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Published on: June 2, 2011

I had hoped to be telling you how excited my teachers were to receive their new iPads by now, but due to supply and shipping issues, we have yet to receive them. Hopefully before long.

Meanwhile, news broke that Google has had to remove apps from the Android Market again due to malware hidden in the apps’ code. This is a huge concern for me with students with Android tablets, especially if I’m unable to limit or enforce the apps they can or can’t install.

I would prefer to keep things open, but the additional support burden of malware and other questionable apps could become a big issue in a small district with a one-man tech shop. If students are able to install from unknown sources (i.e., websites and vendors other than the Android Market), there’s no limit on the potential damage they could do to their own data/hardware or the network. With Apple I can be reasonably certain any apps they download will not be dangerous.

I’m also concerned about antivirus apps. It kills me that antivirus has to be constantly running and wasting resources on a PC, and doing the same on a tablet is only going to put a greater strain on the battery and waste time while a student is waiting on a scan instead of being productive. It’s one more thing to support and configure, and it would not shock me if it became an added cost to management.

How long, then, before some of these third-party management vendors start offering up servers and software for managing Android tablets? A custom Linux install could easily serve as a local repository for apps, profile data, and more.

Just like OS X Server 10.7 Lion may do for iOS devices.

I’m not expecting either Android or iOS deployment to be cheap, but support for malware issues goes beyond monetary costs.

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