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November 3, 2010

Report exposes Android OS flaws

One-quarter of mobile OS code is high risk

By

The Android mobile operating system contains 359 software defects, 25% of which are considered high risk, with the potential to cause security breaches and crashes, according to a new report.

However, the report, by software quality firm Coverity, claimed that the Android source code is still more secure than other open source projects. According to the company, which tested the Android OS on an HTC Incredible, the Android kernel contains 0.47 defects per 1000 lines of code. The industry average is 1 defect per 1000 lines of code, the company said on its blog.

Of the 359 defects picked up by Coverity, 88 were considered high risk. This could mean memory corruption, resource and memory leaks, and uninitialised variables, the company claims. "The Coverity Scan results for the Android kernel we tested show a better than average defect density, meaning this specific kernel is shipping with fewer defects than the industry average for software of this size," said Andy Chou, chief scientist and co-founder of Coverity.

"We believe that highlighting these risks proactively provides developers and OEMs with an opportunity to fix these defects before they become a problem," Chou added.

Coverity examined 61 million lines of code from 291 open source projects such as Linux, Apache, Samba and PHP as well as Android 2.2 (aka Froyo). The full report will be released later this year.

"Open source software, like Android, is cemented into the software supply chain of fast-moving OEMs in the mobile device industry. This creates heavy demand for visibility into the integrity of open source code shipping in modern mobile devices," said Chou.

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Android has seen stellar growth over the last few years and, according to market watchers iSuppli, will overtake Apple’s iOS as the mobile operating system of choice by 2012. The firm claims that Android will be used in 75 million smart phones by 2012, up from 5 million in 2009. Usage of iOS will rise to 62 million in 2012, up from 25 million in 2009.

In terms of market share this will give Android 19.4% in 2012, up from just 2.7% in 2009, while Apple will be on 15.9% in 2012 compared to 13.8% in 2009. In 2014, Android’s share of global smartphone OS usage will rise to 22.8%, while iOS will decline to 15.3%, iSuppli said.

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