Under Pressure, Google Promises To Update Android Security Regularly : All Tech Considered Google recently came under sharp criticism after researchers found a major flaw in Android would let hackers take over smartphones. Now it's launching a new system to protect phones regularly.

Under Pressure, Google Promises To Update Android Security Regularly

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Google is making good on its promise to fix a big problem in its Android operating system. Researchers had found a major flaw that would let hackers take over smartphones with just a text message. Now Google is rolling out a brand-new system to fix that bug and others that may pop up in the future. NPR's Aarti Shahani reports.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: Adrian Ludwig, lead engineer for Android security, is in Las Vegas today at Black Hat, a cyber-security conference. Android is the most popular operating system on earth for smartphones. In a presentation on stage, Ludwig compared it to the United States of America and his speech to the state of the union.


ADRIAN LUDWIG: The union is a complicated one. There are over a billion users of android devices. Thousands of them...

SHAHANI: Google makes Android. Many companies manufacture smartphones that run on android, and carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile tweak those phones for their own apps.


LUDWIG: It is perhaps unprecedented. Nearly every other platform is a closed platform in a way that Android has strived not to be.

SHAHANI: Being open and having all these layers of partnership can make it very hard to fix a problem. And in the world of software, there's always going to be a problem. Last Monday, researchers announced a major flaw that would let hackers take over Android phones via text message. Today, Ludwig made an announcement. Speaking on behalf of the Android union, he says, Google and other phone makers are rolling out what may be the largest software update the world has ever seen.

LUDWIG: Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola - effectively every consumer name associated with mobile devices delivering updates.

SHAHANI: And going one step further, Google will begin conducting regular updates about once a month for its Nexus smartphones. Ludwig says the company is creating a new industry standard.

LUDWIG: People have been looking for clear communication about Android from a security standpoint. It now exists. And I think this is really a watershed moment for us as an industry.

SHAHANI: Bryan Glancey, a security researcher with Optio Labs, used to work for Samsung. He says a coordinated system for Android's security is long overdue. Consider this comparison.

BRYAN GLANCEY: If you fix a problem on Apple, it goes to all Apple devices, and you've done it one time, right? But if you want to fix a problem on Android, you've got to fix every variant of Android.

SHAHANI: And to do that, Google must coordinate with many manufacturers. Glancey says by doing so, the company hopes to decrease the public perception that Android phones are less safe than iPhones. Aarti Shahani, NPR News, Las Vegas.

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