In May, I wrote a post expressing my concerns over Android’s rising malware menace. Back then, a report from Juniper Networks indicated that Android malware problems increased fourfold between June 2010 and January 2011. The report attributed this increase in malware to lack of user education about security, large number of downloads from unknown sources and the lack of mobile security software.
At the beginning of this year, noted antivirus software manufacturer McAfee reported that new mobile malware increased by a whopping 46 percent in 2010 over the previous year. And it would have been a safe bet to assume that things would get worse in 2011. And those fears are confirmed by the latest McAfee report which indicates that malware jumped 22 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year.
And it’s no surprise that Google’s Android operating system was the most popular target for mobile malware developers during the second quarter.
McAfee says the rapid rise in Android malware is a worrying sign that the platform is being increasingly exposed by cyber criminals. The nature of cyber-attacks continues to be varied ranging from calendar apps to unsuspecting text messages to fake Angry Birds updates. In fact, this is the first time that Android- based malware surpassed Nokia’s Symbian as the most popular target for mobile malware developers.
“This year we’ve seen record-breaking numbers of malware, especially on mobile devices, where the uptick is in direct correlation to popularity,” Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs, said in a statement. “Overall attacks are becoming more stealth and more sophisticated, suggesting that we could see attacks that remain unnoticed for longer periods of time.”
There’s no doubt Google’s mobile platform is booming, and so is the volume of malicious apps on Android. Android is currently the fastest growing mobile platform, unfortunately it’s also the biggest distribution point for malware across mobile platforms. In fact, I strongly believe Android fragmentation and openness are secondary issues as compared to the ongoing malware threat.
As remarkable as it seems, the McAfee report confirms that Apple’s iOS platform remains virtually untouched by malware.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, such reports raise important questions over Android’s future as an enterprise-grade mobile platform. Enterprises need to account for the increasing security risks associated with using mobile devices, and proactively protect them from malware.
Despite the ongoing malware issues, Android continues to be the hottest selling mobile platform all over the world. Doesn’t the threat of malware concern prospective and existing Android users? Or perhaps, they are too busy gobbling up data to take notice of such threats.