Android malware continues its rapid rise

Up 427% since July of this year, according to Juniper's figures
Kerry Butters

November 18, 2011
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Android malware continues to spread rapidly, increasing 427% since July 2011, according to the latest research from Juniper Networks.

Last month it was revealed that Android handsets are the most popular smartphones, with a 52% share of the market as opposed to their nearest rival Symbian who has 17% and Apple’s iOS, which has a 15% share.

The reason for the continued malware rise is down to Google’s slack review process, the study says.

According to Juniper, “all you need is a developer account, that is relatively easy to anonymize, pay $25 and you can post your applications.”

The lack of an upfront review process means that apps don’t get checked before they are passed into the Android Market.

Whilst dodgy apps may be taken down later, it is down to users to report malicious apps and many may not even notice until it is too late and an app has made a serious hole in their pocket.

Juniper say they have seen an “exponential growth in Android malware over the last several months”, and October and November are expected to show the fastest growth in the history of the platform.

Not only do malicious apps continue to flood the Android Market, but malware authors are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

Researchers in the spring noted that malware capable of gaining root access to mobile devices had emerged, which means the malicious app is capable of downloading more packages to a device that extend the life and functionality of the malware.

By now, this means that almost all malware apps have this capability as “vulnerabilities remain prevalent in nearly 90% of Android devices being carried around today.”

The research found that of all malware samples, spyware accounts for 55% and 44% are the more dangerous SMS trojans.

These send SMS messages to premium rate numbers without the user’s knowledge and there is nothing that users can do after an attack to regain their cash.

The main reason for the Android epidemic is the different approach Google has to policing apps as opposed to Apple.

Apple’s iOS is considered to be much more secure than Google’s Android not because of the operating system, but because of the way the companies review apps before they hit the market.

Android lacks both “code signing and an application review process”, whilst Apple rigorously checks every app that is submitted.

This lack of policing by Google means that malware developers find it a simple task to distribute their malicious software.

The continued growth in malware is costing device owners a lot of money, and it would seem to be time for Google to do something about it.

Whilst the open nature of Android certainly has its strengths, it is proving to be far too dangerous and accessible to criminals.


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