Mobile software

Amazon Appstore opens Android to attack

Cliff Saran

Amazon is urging people to switch off a safety feature in Android, which prevents rogue apps from being downloaded, to install its own Appstore software.

The online retailer has introduced its app store rival to Google Play in the UK and several European countries, with commercial games and other apps that can be downloaded by anyone with an Amazon account. Apps are purchased using the 1-Click function that Amazon provides for making fast purchases.

However, the Amazon Appstore requires users to disable a feature in the Android Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich operating systems that prevent users from downloading apps from unknown sources.

According to the F-Secure Mobile Threat report Q2 2012, every quarter Android malware has grown in numbers. 

“We received 5,033 malicious Android application package files (APKs), most of which are coming from third-party Android markets,” the report stated.

While Amazon is considered a safe platform, disabling Android security to install the Amazon Appstore, a process known as side-loading, is extremely risky. 

"Side-loading does make you vulnerable to malware attack, but a component of an attack could be downloaded from a non-reputable site," said Rik Ferguson, director of security research at Trend Micro. "Unfortunately, you need to install security software on your Android device.”

Some experts recommend people stick with the official app distribution channel.

Fraser Howard, principal virus researcher at Sophos, advised sticking with the Google Office Play app marketplace. "The majority of malware comes from third-party sites," he said. "Amazon is a trustworthy source, but there is no option in Android to trust another app marketplace.”

Responding to the security concerns an Amazon spokesperson said: "A feature of the Android operating system is that customers must change a setting to allow their device to install applications from sources other than the default app store. Amazon tests apps before publishing them in our store. Our goal is to ensure that all apps are safe for our customers and provide a great customer experience."

The Amazon Appstore is available in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. It provides Amazon features such as personalised recommendations, customer reviews and the 1-Click payment method.


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