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Google defends policy that leaves most Android devices unpatched


"Until recently, we have also provided backports for the version of WebKit that is used by WebView on Android 4.3 and earlier," wrote Adrian Ludwig, Android lead security engineer on Google+. "But WebKit alone is over 5 million lines of code and hundreds of developers are adding thousands of new commits every month, so in some instances applying vulnerability patches to a two-plus-year-old branch of WebKit required changes to significant portions of the code and was no longer practical to do safely."

Ludwig was responding to claims made earlier in the month by Tod Beardsley, the engineering manager at security vendor Rapid7, who contended that Google's security team would no longer craft fixes for flaws in WebView for Android 4.3 and older. Android 4.3, the predecessor to KitKat, is better known as "Jelly Bean."

WebView powers the stock Android browser included with Jelly Bean -- Google replaced that browser with Chrome in KitKat -- and is called by apps that display a Web...(continued)

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