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Android firewalls are still not necessary. Both because of the way the device interacts with the outside, and the (still slight) prevalence of targeted malware.

Do the Android OS's have a firewall incorporated or don't malware originators attack Androids? The question is raised by comments about the dangers of operating in an open Wi-Fi environment.

In this excerpt from Answercast #91 I look at the necessity in having an Android device behind a firewall.

Android firewalls

There are actually a couple of different things in play here.

I know that the incidences of malware targeted at both Android, and potentially IOS, is slowly increasing - but there isn't a whole lot of it. So there's not really a strong call for using anti-malware software on most Android devices.

Firewalls are an interesting case because they provide a barrier against a certain type of attack. That is: on a Windows machine, especially if you have things like networking turned on and file sharing turned on, the Windows machine is set up to respond to requests from other machines.

Firewalls block those requests or they block those requests that aren't appropriately authorized.

Android's access is limited

Android boxes in general, I don't think they actually have a lot of outside initiated connectivity. Most of the connectivity is (much like most Windows machines when you're surfing the web) initiated by the device itself.

So I'm not really sure that there's a lot for the firewalls to protect from. That may change over time.

Certainly Android devices are becoming very robust and very powerful computers in and of themselves. I certainly expect that over time not only will the characteristics of the device change (so that they will be have, at least, the opportunity for an external attack that a firewall would block) - but with increasing popularity there may actually, someday, be enough malware out there that Android users will want to protect themselves in a variety of ways - including both anti-malware and firewall software.

Threat is still low

Today, I don't think you need it. But, it is something that, in general, I advise all Android users to at least keep an ear to the ground. At least pay attention to various sites (including Ask Leo!) to understand just how big a threat things have become.

Today, I have several Android devices. I do not run any anti-malware software and I do not run any firewall software. In fact, I'm not even sure there's such a thing as a firewall for Android just yet.

But that's today. These things as I said, may change as the purveyors of malware set their sites on the next most popular platform.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6285 - January 28, 2013 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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3 Comments
oscarmichael
January 29, 2013 2:35 PM

tanx leo. do u tink a firewall can affect file sharing through bluetooth. i use avast a.tivirus/antitheft on my android device and nw i cant share or receive. it has sm firewall settings u no.

Houssam
January 30, 2013 10:29 PM

Usually most Android devices are Wi-Fi Connected which provide a Hardware Firewall, may be only Mobile Internet is a little attackable!

Mark J
January 31, 2013 3:23 AM

@Houssam
If the Android device is connected to a WPA2 protected network, it is behind a firewall. If it is attached to a public network, or 3G or 4G internet, then it is not behind a firewall.

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