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Android now the world’s most popular operating system

Apr 03, 20173 mins
AndroidData and Information SecurityMobile

Android overtakes Windows as the world's most popular OS, but some Android apps found to secretly steal personal information from other apps

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones
Credit: Adam Patrick Murray

Move over, Microsoft Windows. Thanks to mobile, Google’s Android is now king, as it has become the world’s most popular operating system for getting online.

Web analytics firm StatCounter reported that, for the first time ever, Android topped the worldwide OS internet usage market share. In March, looking at combined usage across desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile, Android usage hit 37.93 percent. That was enough to narrowly overtake Windows’ 37.91 percent.

“This is a milestone in technology history and the end of an era,” said StatCounter CEO Aodhan Cullen. “It marks the end of Microsoft’s leadership worldwide of the OS market, which it has held since the 1980s. It also represents a major breakthrough for Android, which held just 2.4 percent of global internet usage share only five years ago.”

StatCounter, which gets its data from 2.5 million websites, ranked iOS as the third most popular OS for getting online with 13.09 percent; only .75 percent of internet usage came from Linux.

A hefty chunk of Android users came from locations others than the U.S. Last week, StatCounter reported that mobile internet usage in India was at 79 percent, which was more than double that of the U.S. (37.2 percent) or the U.K. (34.8 percent).

The firm’s analytics shows Android dominating the worldwide mobile OS market share with 71.61 percent in March. iOS had 19.5 percent, while Windows had a measly 1.01 percent. That isn’t surprising considering how poorly the Windows Phone platform has been received.

Windows still holds the title as the world’s most used operating system on desktops and laptops. With a 39.5 percent market share in March, Windows is still the most-used platform in North America. The iOS platform is next with 25.7 percent usage in North America, followed by 21.2 percent of Android usage. In Europe, Windows is on 51.7 percent of devices. Yet in Asia, Android is on 52.2 percent, and Windows is on only 29.2 percent of devices.

“Windows won the desktop war, but the battlefield moved on,” said Cullen. “It will be difficult for Microsoft to make inroads in mobile, but the next paradigm shift might give it the opportunity to regain dominance. That could be in augmented reality, AI, voice or continuum”—a product that aims to replace a desktop and smartphone with a single Microsoft powered phone.

Android apps secretly steal data without your permission from other apps

Elsewhere, in other Android news, Virginia Tech researchers warn that some Android apps that don’t ask for overreaching permissions are actually stealing personal information from other apps.

“Researchers were aware that apps may talk to one another in some way, shape or form,” said Assistant Professor of Computer Science Gang Wang. “What this study shows undeniably with real-world evidence over and over again is that app behavior, whether it is intentional or not, can pose a security breach depending on the kinds of apps you have on your phone.”

After analyzing 110,150 Android apps over a period of three years, the researchers “found thousands of pairs of apps that could potentially leak sensitive phone or personal information and allow unauthorized apps to gain access to privileged data.”

The study, funded by DARPA, took 6,340 hours and used DIALDroid software. DIALDroid is open source and available on GitHub. The team is presenting its findings at the Association for Computing Machinery Asia Computer and Communications Security Conference in Dubai. You can read the full report via the research paper “Collusive Data Leak and More: Large-scale Threat Analysis of Inter-app Communications” (pdf).

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.