Alcatel-Lucent reveals sharp rise in mobile malware in H1 2014

Android smartphones are more vulnerable to mobile malware attacks than handsets running other operating systems according to Alcatel-Lucent, as the equipment manufacturer revealed a sharp rise in security threats to mobile devices.

In a malware report produced by its Kindsight Security Labs division, Alcatel-Lucent revealed that mobile malware infections rose by 17 per cent in the first half of 2014--a growth rate nearly double that registered through the whole of 2013. The company estimates that 15 million smartphones were infected by malware at the end of the first half, compared to 11.7 million devices at end-2013.

Android devices accounted for 60 per cent of infected smartphones by end-June. In contrast, infections on iPhone and BlackBerry devices made up less than 1 per cent each.

While Android smartphones are the most vulnerable to malware attacks, Kindsight Security Labs' security architect and director Kevin McNamee said Windows-powered laptop PCs "are still the favourite of hard core professional cybercriminals."

McNamee added that the "quality and sophistication of most Android malware is still behind the more mature Windows PC varieties." The smartphone malware also "makes no serious effort to conceal itself and relies on unsuspecting people to install an infected app."

In a related blog post, McNamee notes that mobile spyware "has become a cottage industry" whereby ready-made programmes are available online. While the programmes themselves are legal in most countries, McNamee said unauthorised installation on a user's smartphone is not. "If it's been loaded secretly on mobile device for the purpose of spying, it's illegal."

McNamee also revealed that five mobile spyware apps made his company's top 20 Android malware list in the first half of 2014, and warned that anti-virus software typically will not detect such apps "because it is installed manually by an individual who has physical access to your device."

Security company Kaspersky Labs last month revealed that mobile users are twice as likely to have their social media account hacked than non-mobile users. In a study of 11,135 people in 23 countries, the company said 13 per cent of respondents reported a social media hack on their Android tablet.

For more:
- see Alcatel-Lucent's press release
- read McNamee's blog

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