While mobile use worldwide is growing at an accelerated rate, so too is the increase of malware. But accepting that idea is one thing; seeing it in numbers is another. According to Juniper Networks, the number of individual pieces of mobile malware increased 614% between March 2012 and March 2013. 614%! That figure is nothing short of staggering, if not a bit worrisome.
As Paul pointed out the other day, security firm Lookout claimed that over 1 million Android users downloaded adware over the previous year, and Juniper's report helps back that all-too-high figure up nicely. Unfortunately for Google, that 614% increase isn't the only thing that's scary - 92% of that makes its home on Android.
For a couple of reasons, that isn't too surprising. At last check, Android can be found on 70% of shipping smartphones, which gives malware creators a no-brainer platform to target. This is made even more true by the fact that Android is much more "open" than competing platforms. Users can install their own applications without hassle, and third-party app stores can be easily accessed. This openness is of course a great thing overall, so sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.
Juniper states that 500 third-party app stores were found to house malware (I'm a little more impressed at the fact that there are that many app stores), and with those, 276,259 pieces of malware were discovered. Somewhat interestingly, 3 out of every 5 pieces of malware originated in either Russia or China, and 3 out of 4 of the total were "FakeInstallers" or SMS trojans. The SMS trojan in particular is a bit scary as it could easily go unnoticed. If an SMS trojan spikes your phone bill $10, it could be easy to overlook if you're not one of those to analyze your bills in detail.
While it's hard to say that anti-malware solutions might be worth looking into, this massive increase in malware sure supports it. But as always, if you are careful about what you do on your phone, just like you are on your PC, you're likely to be safe. It's when you start downloading from any ol' source without paying attention that you're bound to run into issues.
For what it's worth though, Google has been amping up its own anti-malware efforts recently, such as implementing an app-scanning utility with Jelly Bean 4.2, and has also begun rolling-out reputation technology to help the device deem when a source is safe. We'll see before long if these efforts are enough.
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