Android? Meh, says DSD


Android is speedily becoming Australia’s most popular mobile operating system, with sales of devices using it poised to outstrip Apple by the end of 2011. But the Federal Government’s peak security agency this week clarified it hadn’t yet started evaluating Google’s Android platform for use within the public sector just yet — seeing no immediate need.

The organisation responsible for certifying technology software and hardware for use by government agencies in Australia is the Defence Signals Directorate, which sits within the Department of Defence. Historically the organisation has focused on certifying mobile operating systems from BlackBerry maker Research in Motion and Microsoft.

Last week the organisation took steps to recognising the growing popularity of Apple’s iOS platform used on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. DSD has published a guide to ‘hardening’ the devices (increasing their security) and revealed it was is currently evaluating iOS for official certification for use in the public sector at different security levels, with a judgement due in September this year.

However, the security agency doesn’t appear as keen on Google’s rival Android platform.

“The Android platform has not yet been submitted for DSD evaluation,” a Defence spokesperson said in response to a question on the issue this week. “At this time, the use of the Android platform for Australian government business does not necessitate the production of a hardening guide.”

The spokesperson added that DSD, as the Commonwealth authority on information security would continue to provide advice and assistance for technology based on the “business requirements” of Australian government users of technology. “To do this, DSD works closely with industry partners to enable effective information security options for Australian government agencies,” they said.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Android platform is not yet being used widely in Australian government departments and agencies, with most users still using BlackBerry devices, and Apple’s iPhone and iPad models increasingly being the new flavour of the month.

However, in the broader community, Australian use of the Android platform is skyrocketing.

Analyst house IDC recently published a report suggesting that by the end of this year, there will be more Android-based smartphones being sold in Australia than iPhones.

“Android remains on track to become the most popular smartphone OS in Australia this year, although Apple is doing its best to delay Android from reaching this milestone. The weakness in Symbian and slow initial growth of Windows Phone are providing a stimulus for iOS and Android, which will battle head to head for the top spot in 2011,” said IDC telecommunications analyst Mark Novosel in late June.

The news mirrors results seen earlier this year in the United States, where the Android platform finally pulled ahead of Apple in terms of total US smartphone subscribers. In addition, Apple’s iPad platform is seeing a strong degree of local competition at the moment from rival tablets based on Android.

In Australia, the Android platform is being pushed by a number of major handset manufacturers, with the list including Asian giants like HTC, Samsung and LG, as well as global company Sony Ericsson and even US company Motorola.

Image credit: HTC


  1. Wow. That’s actually a little depressing. I wonder if it’s driven by the same thing as we’re seeing in a lot of corporations – basically, execs and senior management turning up to work with their new shiny iPads, being dismayed when they don’t work with the corporate infrastructure, and then demanding change, which ripples down from on high unto the IT departments who then get to make the changes.

    One would like to think the DSD would be more willing to embrace Android, given that it is an open source operating system, and one would think that its security can be more accurately verified as they can actually have people pore through the code looking for vulnerabilities – and even commit fixes back to the tree so they can be integrated upstream and find their way to everyone else.

    With Apple, their ability to do a security audit is limited in the same as every other closed source software vendor – you have to pretty much take their word that it’s secure enough, and then sit back and wait for the inevitable exploits to get discovered, and then hopefully and revealed and patched before it is too late.

    All that said, I think Apple have done a good job promoting their devices to business and I believe that they actually have made pretty good strides in the area of corporate security (?). Hopefully Android will do the same, but I suspect we’ll probably have to wait until there’s an Android tablet shiny enough to attract the sort of people that sit in boardrooms and make decisions like this one :)

  2. With defence being so strong on security, I have no idea why they are picking apple over RIM or Android

    RIM is well known for its high security features, along with its microkernal design used in their OS. Android likewise is open source, so there is nothing stopping the DSD from creating their own highly secure custom kernel (ROM’s) for use with their company devices

    • RIM is already on the approval list. I suspect Android’s issue is its openness, it can’t be validated in the same way as Blackberry’s, or iOS because no two Android devices are the same. Its a similar issue to the issue of Apps- Hulu Plus only runs on 6 Android phones for some reason.

      • That doesn’t stop them from only allowing certain Android handsets, which is even easier if they do it through the carrier

        • They could certify individual handsets… but then no individual Android handset has the popularity to justify certification. Android has lots of pluses but it is quite fragmented and this has a price to pay.

          • Samsung and HTC samsungs are by far the highest selling android handsets in Australia (with Motorola trailing behind).

            I think SGS and the HTC desire are one of the most popular android handsets by far, for at least Australia

Comments are closed.