Intel Inside Android, via McAfee Security

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If you use any kind of Android device for business, security has to be a top concern.

And when two security researchers announced recently that they had found that third-party app developers could brush off security guidelines for Android and post apps that could expose Android devices to hackers, it raised just one more flag.

With HP’s WebOS now on ice, and the BlackBerry PlayBook still toiling in niche-device territory, Android is the undisputed alternative to Apple’s iOS for tablets and smartphones. Devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 are so good, and enable so much potential for business, that Android’s growth in the enterprise is inevitable. So security issues are not minor.

That’s where Intel has entered the picture. After its acquisition of McAfee, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker now has beachhead in the Android ecosystem with McAfee’s security technology.

Earlier this year, McAfee presented Wave Secure for Android, which was one of 20 working security apps for the platform that we looked at and really liked.

But McAfee itself has produced research it says provides even more cause for Android-alarm:

“One significant change in the first quarter of 2011 was Android’s becoming the third-most targeted platform for mobile malware. This quarter the count of new Android-specific malware moved to number one, with J2ME (Java Micro Edition), coming in second while suffering only a third as many malware.

“This increase in threats to such a popular platform should make us evaluate our behavior on mobile devices and the security industry’s preparedness to combat this growth.”

(A PDF of McAfee’s new report can be found here.)

Now McAfee has announced a deal with NEC to include McAfee Mobile Security on all NEC LifeTouch devices.

In a segment of the industry where Nvidia Tegra 2 processors have been gaining acceptance – and thus competing stronger with the market leader in CPUs – Intel through McAfee is positioning itself as the Android security company. This is not a small deal. According to research group In-Stat, by 2017 there will be 250 million tablet shipments annually and Android and iOS will own 90 percent of that market. (And 250 million might actually be low-balling it.)

Until manufacturers like NEC, or mobile device VARs, begin to partner with security providers like McAfee, and provide on-board device security, protecting Android devices will be a matter of sifting through what’s available in the Android market and hoping for the best.

And for security companies that fail to partner with VARs or device manufacturers in this space, the potential of falling outside one of the fastest-growing segments of IT is becoming increasingly real.

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