Baidu enters smartphone security software market

Internet giant's launch of Mobile Guardian is a shot across the bow of its rival, Qihoo 360

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 December, 2013, 1:38am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 December, 2013, 3:24am

Baidu, China's largest internet-search services provider, has introduced its own security software for Android-based smartphones, putting rival Qihoo 360 Technology squarely in its crosshairs.

The launch of Baidu Mobile Guardian in Beijing yesterday followed the company's acquisition of TrustGo, a California-based mobile-security company, for a reported US$30 million in February this year.

It is also poised to intensify Baidu's competition with Qihoo, which started in 2005 as a supplier of anti-virus software online and expanded to become a strong No2 internet search provider in China last year. Analysys International said Baidu had a combined 72.1 per cent share of the country's desktop and mobile search market at the end of September, followed by Qihoo with a 14.2 per cent share.

Zhang Lei, the general manager at Baidu's mobile-security product team, said Mobile Guardian was designed to fight "a deteriorating security environment for Android smartphone users in China", where 70 per cent of about 100,000 virus-carrying mobile apps were found to be charging users a fee without their knowledge.

"This year, 14 million users were affected and the direct losses amounted to 70 million yuan [HK$89 million]," he said.

Mobile Guardian scans for malicious fee-charging apps and deletes them. It also has an "anti-scam function" to detect mobile base stations and block messages sent by fake telecommunications service providers and banks.

But Baidu's software faces stiff competition. A Barclays report said Qihoo's mobile-security software had 338 million smartphone users at the end of June, up from 120 million a year earlier.