Report: Android malware more than doubles

Let's hope security is high on the agenda at Google I/O this week because the level of Android-related malware has more than doubled within the last two years, according to the most recent research from NQ Mobile. The company's security report was based on insights from its team of more than 250 security professionals along with data collected in the early months of 2013.

  • Two years after its introduction, more than 39 percent of Android users are still using Gingerbread.1, which means important security updates aren't being accessed.
  • In 2012, 94.8 percent of malware discovered was designed to attack Android devices.
  • Exploits, spyware, pervasive adware and Trojans, otherwise known as potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), accounted for 65 percent of the malware NQ discovered in 2012.
  • Twenty-eight percent of mobile malware discovered in 2012 was designed to collect and profit from a user's personal data
  • It's not just about Android but the users: only 52 percent of consumers reported requiring a passcode or other authentication method to access their device.
NQMobile - Malware discoveries, by year

Source: NQ Mobile

"More and more Android users can now download and install mobile apps outside of Google Play," the report says. "This means that more users than ever are able to visit and download apps from third-party marketplaces, where the majority of malicious apps are being hosted."

It would be easy to conclude from NQ's data that Android is only a space for the bravest consumers and developers, but this doesn't really offer a straight comparison with malware in the iOS space. Instead, the data compares Android to Symbian, a far lesser-used platform. It's also research that shows a lot of the worst activity is happening overseas.

For example, 25.5 percent of infected mobile devices were in China, followed by India at 19 percent and Russia at 18 percent. Android in the United States was relatively low at 9.8 percent, though NQ wasn't very optimistic. "While instances of malware infections did not significantly increase from 2011 to 2012 in the U.S., the market is an attractive target for cybercriminals. NQ Mobile expects to see an increasing number of attacks on smartphones in the region," the report said. Consider yourself warned.

For more:
- read the full report (PDF)

Related articles:
Android malware disguised as mobile ad network infects up to 9M devices
Android fragmentation galvanizes app testing industry
Android malware apps designed to infect PCs discovered in Google Play

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