Smartphones continue to escalate in popularity as more mobile phone manufacturers release affordable smartphone handsets in order to attract consumers in emerging markets. It appears to have been a smart move. Leading IT research and advisory company, Gartner, Inc., recently revealed that while worldwide mobile phone sales saw a decline of 1.7% in 2012 from the year before, smartphone sales soared globally during 2012, with a record-setting number of 207.7 million units being sold in the fourth quarter of 2012 – up 38.3% from the same period in 2011.
Gartner’s report also showed that smartphones running on the Android operating system captured more than 50% of the smartphone OS market, growing with 87.8% in the fourth quarter of 2012.
“Unfortunately that isn’t the only growth Android has been experiencing,” says Lutz Blaeser, MD of local IT security software distributor Intact Security. “The current malware report compiled by antivirus security solutions software house G Data, demonstrates how owners of Android smartphones and tablet PCs are increasingly being targeted by malware authors.”
According to the G Data Malware Report, analyses from the second half of 2012 show that the amount of new malware programs targeting Android has increased fivefold since the first half of 2012, reaching a maximum of almost 140 000 by the end of the second half of the year. “Over the last few months, Android malware has become an eCrime growth market; we are constantly recording new variants of malicious apps.” says Ralf Benzmüller, head of G Data Security Labs. “However, the perpetrators are not only relying on spreading malicious apps, but are increasingly trying to integrate infected devices into botnets. This turns smartphones into spam machines.”
G Data’s report makes it clear that malware creators are now going for quality over quantity. The growth of PC malware has slowed for the second time in a row, because the perpetrators are using less mass malware and focusing mainly on creating highly complex, intelligent malware instead, which Benzmüller points out is significantly more dangerous and can cause far more damage.
And those malware producing cyber crooks are busy too. In the second half of the year, a new malware strain for Android was discovered every two minutes – which amounted to 140 000 new malicious files.
“The new forms of Android malware are particularly insidious, because it is mostly Trojan horses that take the guise of known apps with legitimate functions, such as weather apps,” Blaeser says. “The manipulated copies are cleverly designed to look like the genuine article and will even show you the weather forecast like the real app does – but it can also be a command system that gives a hacker total control over your handset and provides him with all your numbers, contacts, and the passwords stored on the phone. Some malware even allows users to trace the exact physical location of your phone, delete all your information and wreak some other havoc.”
Blaeser advises that users who want to ensure that their devices don’t get struck down by such a Trojanised app, should make sure that they only download or purchase apps from legitimate sources, such as the Google Play store. “Alternatively, users can protect their Android phones or tablets with special mobile antivirus protection such as G Data MobileSecurity Version 2,” says Blaeser. “It not only protects users against viruses, malicious apps and threats while they surf the web, but it also allows them the possibility of retrieving their lost device or delete all their personal data if the tablet or phone has been stolen.”