Twitter Hardens Tweets With Android Security Acquisition

Twitter is showing its followers that it cares about security with its latest acquisition. The micro-blogging service just scooped up Whisper Systems, a small mobile-security software development start-up. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Whisper Systems provides security and management solutions that promise to transform consumer phones and tablets into enterprise-ready devices. That's a big promise considering the malware threats in the wild today, but it's one that Twitter appears to be betting on -- and it looks like company founders, Moxie and Stuart Anderson, will hit the ground running.

"The Whisper Systems team is joining Twitter starting today," Twitter said in a statement. "As part of our fast-growing engineering team, they will be bringing their technology and security expertise to Twitter's products and services. We're happy to have Moxie and Stuart on board."

Targeting Android Devices

Whisper Systems is focusing on an area that got a little controversial last week: Android. Whisper's products include WhisperCore, device and data security for Android, as well as WhisperMonitor, network security for Android. Other Android-targeted products include Flashback for encrypted backups, RedPhone for encrypted voice and TextSecure for encrypted texts.

"We started Whisper Systems with the goal of improving security and privacy for mobile devices," the founders said in a blog post announcing the acquisition. "We were attracted to this not only because we saw it as an opportunity to reinvent the security solutions that never really worked in the PC environment to begin with, but also because the stakes are much higher -- due to the nature of mobile devices themselves -- and we didn't like the way that things were looking."

Whisper Systems ended up tackling the full stack, from app-level solutions down to a hardened version of Android. Whisper even went after kernel modifications at the rock bottom of the stack to develop some of its products. Although the products will live on via Twitter, current customers will have to do without them until the transition is complete.

No Black Eyes

Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, said buying Whisper Systems was a smart move as more Twitter users rely on mobile devices to send and read messages. Although the solution focuses on Android, that may be the best place for Twitter to start given the reports from security research firms about the security of Android Market. Juniper and Kaspersky Lab both identified Android as more likely to hide malware than Apple's iTunes App Store.

"Twitter is where people tend to learn about events first. I remember learning about the San Francisco earthquake through Twitter. I found about Osama bin Laden through Twitter, as well as the NBA strike. It's a place people go to get information and distribute information," Kerravala said.

"With that in mind, we'll see greater adoption of Twitter through mobile devices. We've seen Facebook integrate some security tools. But we've also seen Facebook get hit with some big security problems. Twitter is trying to avoid those black eyes."