Android Malware on the Rise

Andoird Malware on the Rise

It is not just happening to Windows, Research in Motion, iOS and tablet computers, smartphones, and other mobile devices; the Android operating system has also become a target of a massive malware attack. In fact, these attacks have been increasing at a steady rate.

According to Kaspersky, in the second quarter of 2012, malware attacks on Android devices has tripled. The security vendor discovered close to 15,000 new malicious software attacking the said mobile OS in the second quarter– up from just 5,500 in the first quarter of 2012.

Android malware attacks usually involve multi-functional types of malware that steal the contact information and e-mail addresses stored on your phone.  The International Business Times also reported that these malware can also download packets of data from malicious servers, opening your mobile device to even more threats in the future.

Around 25% of the malware found by Kaspersky involved SMS Trojans.  When you are infected with a SMS Trojan, your mobile phone will send text messages to premium rate numbers without you even knowing it.

Another prevalent attack turns your mobile device into a component of a mobile botnet.  Botnets are a collection of infected devices that are controlled by the hackers.  This particular one is similar to Windows’ own version of botnets. This kind of attack comprises 18% of those detected.

A small percentage of malware attacks involve the Trojan Spy variety, which compromises your banking details. More specifically, only two percent of all detected attacks are of this type.

Another computer security company, F-Secure, confirmed the rise of Android Malware attacks.  The Finland-based corporation saw an increase of 3,069 malicious Android APKs between the first quarters of 2011 and 2012 (up from just 139 APKs in 2010-2011).

Meanwhile, other computer security companies are chiming in their agreement to the rising threat of malware in Android devices.

For one, F-Secure in a report said that there’s a rise of Android Malware attacks.  It stated that there had been more than 5,000 malware detection in the second quarter of 2012. It also reported that there are now 40 different malware families existing in the Android environment.

McAfee found 1.5 million more malware, during the second quarter than the previous period.

So, why are Android malware attacks increasing?  After decades and decades of educating computer users about viruses and malicious software entering their computers and doing them harm, why are we back to square one?

1. More and more people are using smartphones

One of the biggest reasons why we are seeing a lot more malware attacks on Android phones now is the increasing number of people owning smartphones as a whole.  According to Nielsen, over half of mobile phone owners in the United States now own a smartphone. Out of those who own a smartphone, around 49% own an Android phone.

Around the globe, Android takes a commanding lead in terms of market share, with around 6 out of every 10 mobile phone users owning an Android device.

Because of its dominance, Android is attracting hackers and cybercriminals.  Using the tricks that they have already learned from sending malware on PCs, they are now focusing their attention on Android phones.

2. Not every smartphone user is aware of the threats

Most people think that their smartphones are not susceptible to malware and viruses. In fact, when you hear the terms malware, you might instantly think about your PC. People think that because their PCs run on a different operating system or platform than their mobile phones, it already means that their mobile phones are safe.

This kind of thinking leads to a laxity when it comes to security while using your mobile phones. Some people are plainly unaware that malware exists on their phones.

3. It is Google’s fault

Like it or not, Google Play might not be as secure as you think.  Google is not that strict in curating the apps that become available for download in their app downloading platform, Google Play.  In fact, it was only in August 2012 that Google took concrete and strong steps to rid Google Play of malicious apps, spam and copycats.  After years in operation, Google is finally taking a tough stance against dangerous apps such as those that send text messages or e-mails without the user’s consent, collecting information, or downloading and installing packets from other sources.

google play logo

This was after malicious apps were discovered in their listings.  Two apps gained special attention:  GTA 3 – Moscow City and Super Mario Bros.  Both games garnered around 50,000 to 100,000 downloads and stayed for weeks on Google Play before being detected.

What’s more, according to a MSNBC report, Google allows developers to change their codes AFTER installation, making it possible to sneak malicious codes to your phone through updates.

4.People just do not know what to do

With the heightened alarm being sounded by various computer and mobile security companies, ignorance is no longer an excuse.  But still, people are at a loss as to what they could do to protect themselves from malware attacks on their Android devices.

But fighting malware takes only an ounce of common sense along with a few simple measures.

Pay attention to the apps you install

One of the ways that hackers and cybercriminals get their malware into your system is by copying popular apps, and fooling you into thinking that you are downloading the real thing.  When you install these fake apps, they either have you pay for it, or inject malware into your phone.  Be sure to pay attention that you are getting the right app from the right developer.What’s more, read the permissions.  These permissions often let you know what resources the apps are going to use and what they can do with your phone. Beware of apps that sound too good to be true, because those are probably dangerous.  For example, a free version of a popular paid app, or perhaps an app that promises to give you money just by installing it, or one that offers free wallpaper, ringtones and other content.

Download only from Google Play

Google Play might not be perfect when it comes to security, it still offers a higher level of security and regulation for the apps that they feature.  Unauthorized app stores are usually bad news, so unless you need something that is not available on Google Play and you can trust the developer, avoid downloading apps from outside Google Play. You can also make sure that you do not forget this by disallowing installation of non-Market applications in your Settings.

Install antivirus and anti-malware apps from reputable companies

Much like your PCs, a good antivirus and anti-malware software would do you a world of good when it comes to detecting malware and viruses on your smartphone or tablets.  A good scanner not only allows you to detect these threats but also helps you get rid of and avoid them.

Keep your Android up-to-date

Hackers and cybercriminals usually exploit vulnerabilities found on your operating system. Google finds out about these and patches it up with an update. If you have an outdated Android running on your phone, then that means that you will be exposed to that vulnerability.

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