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August 16, 2012

Android malware triples in three months

Malware looking for banking details could be greatest threat facing Android users, says Kaspersky

By Steve Evans

If there was any doubt that Android is the prime target for cyber criminals looking to exploit the mobile boom, figures from Kaspersky Lab should put a stop to that.

The company’s research has revealed threats aimed at Android devices tripled in the second quarter. Over the three months to the end of June Kaspersky spotted 14,923 new threats. The previous quarter saw just 5,441 new threats detected.

Just under half of the new threats detected were Trojans that aim to steal data from the device, such as contact names, email addresses and telephone numbers.

Around one-quarter were of the more serious variety – SMS Trojans. These malware sign users up to premium rate text services without their knowledge or consent. The cost to the unsuspecting user can be astronomically high.

Interestingly Kaspersky said that the geographical reach of these programs is growing. A few years ago they were only detected in Russia, China and parts of south east Asia. Today the company claims it is detected them in 47 different countries.

A relatively new but growing issue for Android devices is backdoors, which currently make up 18% of all Android threats detected. These can give cyber criminals full access to a user’s device. At the moment they are primarily being used to build a network of mobile bots which can be used to launch spam and malware attacks.

There is another threat that is currently small but growing on the radar – that of Spy Trojans. Kaspersky said these present the greatest threat to Android users as they can steal banking information.

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However, recent figures have suggested that mobile banking is failing to gain traction in the UK market, meaning Kaspersky’s fears could be misguided.

Research from YouGov found that 80% of users are yet to embrace mobile banking while 58% show no interest at all in a mobile wallet. Over half of those surveyed feared their banking details would not be safe with mobile banking.

It is no surprise to see cyber criminals turning their attention to Android. Recent figures from Gartner revealed that mobile devices running Google’s mobile OS shipped 98.5 million units in Q2 2012, more than three times the number of Apple iOS devices. Android sales continue to be dominated by Samsung’s range of smartphones, totalling 46% of the Android market.

"In the near future, we expect not only more malware, but more effective and dangerous malware targeting Android," said Yuri Namestnikov, senior malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab. "Judging from existing trends, we should expect that cybercriminals will soon shift to more personalised attacks. This is primarily about malware hunting for confidential data with which to steal money from users’ credit cards."

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