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Android malware now twice as common than six month ago

Consumer Reports News: August 03, 2011 11:38 AM

Android-powered smart phones are gaining in popularity with consumers—and with hackers and criminals. A new report from Lookout Security, a company that develops security apps for Android phones, says the likelihood of an Android user running into malware is more than twice as likely than back in January.

The report, based on data collected from users of Lookout apps, says there are now more than 400 Android apps—up from 80 in January—infected with malware and viruses. And an estimated 500,000 people have been affected by such malicious software.

Lookout says the sharp rise in Android exploits is in part due to the new avenues of attacks hackers can use to make money—or steal data—from smart phones. In addition to catching unsuspecting users via mobile e-mail and Web surfing, Lookout notes malware programmers are increasingly turning to:

  • Malicious, in-app advertising. Much like the banner ads on a website, these seemingly-innocuous banners can direct users to malicious sites or download programs onto a smart phone. In June, Lookout discovered GGTracker, a piece of malware that clandestinely signed up Android owners to a $10 per month texting service, was being spread via a doctored ad.
  • Bad app updates. Hackers will either release an app or a game that is free of malicious code in the hopes that it will be installed on a smart phone, Subsequent updates, which may happen automatically based on the users' settings, then bring the malware.

Kevin Mahaffey, co-founder and CTO of Lookout told ComputerWorld:

We're in the startup phase of the mobile malware market, with innovation in distribution and monetization, but I think the threat is manageable.

In Consumer Reports' latest report on Online security, our own survey data indicate that mobile phones are the new risk to consumers' digital safety. Based on Consumer Reports National Survey Center data, fewer than one in three mobile-phone users had taken precautions such as regularly downloading software updates and backing up their data to another device.

Check out Consumer Reports Guide to Online Security for tips on how to keep your data safe.

Spike in mobile malware doubles Android users' chances of infection [ComputerWorld]
Android users twice as likely to see malware than six months ago [CNet]
Android malware twice as common today compared to six months ago [SlashGear]

Paul Eng

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