Google Phone: A Business-Tech Nightmare Waiting to Happen Posted by Ben Worthen
Google hopes its new operating system will turn phones into mini computers that are just as useful as PCs. A lot has to go right for that to happen — phone carriers will need to open up their networks and developers need to write software for Google’s system. But if Google succeeds, it will set off a battle inside companies between the people who provide technology and the people who use it.
Here’s the first thing that will happen when a phone with Google’s operating system hits the market: Information-technology departments will ban employees from connecting phones that run Google’s operating system to their computers or the corporate network. The reason is that Google’s operating system is open, meaning anyone can write software for it. That includes bad guys, who will doubtlessly develop viruses and other malicious code for these phones, which unsuspecting Google phones owners will download. Employees could spread the malicious code to the rest of the company when they synch their phones to their computers or use it to check email.
The way to combat this is to develop anti-virus and anti-malware software for phones and to develop security procedures similar to those that have evolved for PCs over the last several years. But that’s going to take time and money – neither of which the average IT department has. So until then, expect Google phones to be persona non grata at companies.
The problem is that if Google succeeds, there’s going to be some really cool software for phones. Most of it will be targeted to consumers – things like social-networking or online-shopping software. But it’s a good bet there will be some software that workers can use to make themselves more productive. Naturally, people will want to use this software – not using it will be like trying to do business without a PC, they’ll say.
It will be the proverbial irresistible force meeting an immovable object. Employees will argue that they need the phones in order to be productive, and IT will counter that it’s just too risky. Both sides will be right, and until the security technology and policies for phones catch up to their capabilities, neither side will win.
Update: Judging from the comments, some people think we’re saying something we aren’t. We don’t think Google’s mobile operating system is a security problem because it’s open source. But the phones that use it could become a security threat because, if Google succeeds, there are going to be a lot of applications for this phone, and individuals are going to be able to download whichever ones they want to use. As this happens, bad guys are going to start targeting these people with their own code, much the way they target PC users today.
The fact is that while most companies have anti-virus and anti-malware software on PCs, they don’t do much of anything to secure phones. If Google achieves its vision, companies will realize that they have this weakness; not knowing how to address it — companies would need to buy all sorts of security software and put in place all sorts of policies — their first instinct will be to ban the phones. Employees will get upset because–again, if Google achieves its vision–these phones will be pretty darn cool and pretty helpful business tools. Hence, the conflict it may cause, which has nothing to do with open source or Google, per se, and everything to do with companies’ not being prepared for the phone as a dominant computing platform.