Google Uses Its Kill Switch In Android-based Phones For The First Time. Could This Be A Security Risk?

When you are using a computer, you are in a pretty open environment.

The people who design computers know that you expect to do whatever you want with them so, to accommodate that wish, they allow you free reign.

The new smart phone operating systems do not operate under that same assumptions however.

Android kill switch used

The smart phone creators of today know that the phones have limited resources and seem to think that they need to be controlled at all times.

Not total control, but more restrictions than you would have on a regular computer.

While the Android operating system is known for being the most open out of all of the other smart phones out on the market it is still pretty closed off as well.

An example of this happened just recently when, for the first time, Google used the kill switch that it has.

What Is The Kill Switch?

Google is worried that there may be a rogue application that might start to attack the phones they have out on the markets.

The apps store that Google runs is pretty open and it is conceivable that someone would try to place an infected app in it.

In fact, this happened recently.

A security researcher created an app and distributed it to people who use smart phones that have the Android operating system.

The applications were harmless and it was just a test but in order to get rid of the apps off of their customers’ phones Google used a kill switch to accomplish this.

This means that the apps that were installed on the phone by the users were erased without their knowledge.

While it has been reported earlier that Google had a kill switch on their phones some people were still surprised by this report and are worried about the security implications of having such a switch.

What Happens If The Bad Guys Get Control Of It?

Having this kill switch already baked into the operating system means that if a bad guy is ever able to exploit it then there might be problems.

The Android operating system is open sourced and the code is easy to find.

Applications that people bought and created could be erased without their knowledge.

It is also conceivable that there could be more damage done as well.

We only know now that the phone is able to erase apps that were bought in the app store.

What if it is able to do more?

If the bad guys are ever able to get their hands on it then they could possibly have control over our phones.

That is a doomsday scenario but it is possible.

Google Is Not The Only One To Have A Kill Switch

Google’s Android operating system is not the only one with this kind of capability.

There have been back door switches reported in all of the major operating systems.

We will just have to see if they ever get exploited.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

Comments

  1. I don’t think we can do anything about progress in computing because us humans always like to push the limits.

    It would be good, though, to stop and pause every now and again so that we can take stock and allow the masses to catch up so that we have a large pool of expertise with which to audit the progress we are making in order to ensure we don’t do what humans do best… namely cock it up!

  2. While it would be bad if this kind of thing got in the wrong hands, i would also worry about a dumb mistake by a google employee.
    Of course they arent the only one with kill switches. i would like to know how many Microsoft has,lol

    • Oooh, isn’t that the truth!

      A disgruntled or stupid employee in any organisation can be much more harmful than any external threat.

      • All it takes is a memory stick an a USB port an a ticked off employee can wreck havoc,,, but hitting the wrong button or making a mistake in the coding while working on it,, yea inside threats can be worse an do more damage at times. Whoops i didnt mean to put that , in the code where it didnt need to be.

        • Well I think it may take more than a ‘,’ in the wrong place but I totally agree… have you ever heard of a logic bomb going off??

          • i have heard of it, seems i remember something being wrote up about that somewhere in the past few months.

            Wasnt that Google that awhile back a code writer made a ‘whoops’ an messed things up for a short time, an it was a rather simple mistake if i remember right.

            Can we get to smart – yes.
            I have complained for years that as far as computers go we have gone to far to quick.

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