Android Market Fragmentation Leaves Users Vulnerable to Mobile Malware

by Istvan Fekete on June 27, 2013

Smart mobile handsets are becoming a core part of our professional and personal lives, allowing easy access — anytime, anywhere — to information. Considering the rapid adoption of interconnected devices, Gartner’s estimate that more than a billion smartphones will reach new customers in 2013 compared to only 675 million units in 2012 sounds realistic. IDC goes as far as claiming that tablets will surpass PC shipments by 2015. But with the tremendous rise of smart mobile devices comes the equivalent increase in mobile malware targeting unaware users.

There are two main mobile platforms that dominate the mobile landscape: Android, which retains more than 70% of the global market; and iOS, which has roughly 21% of market share.

Although the picture looks slightly different when we break it down by manufacturer, this isn’t the main point here, but Juniper Networks’ latest findings show that mobile malware has risen 614% in just a year.

Well, that’s alarming.

To put that into numbers: from March 2012 through March 2013, the total amount of malware the MTC (Mobile Threat Center) sampled across all mobile platforms grew to 276,259 malicious apps, compared with a 155% increase reported in 2011, suggesting that as PC sales decline, attackers are switching to mobile.

But the most alarming thing is that Android malware grew more than 600% annually.

The majority (73%) of the mobile malware exploit holes in mobile payments by sending fraudulent premium SMS messages, generating about $10 in immediate profit. And Google Play isn’t an exception in hosting malware, although more than 500 third-party Android app stores contain malicious applications.

One of the main issues related to the rapid growth in Android malware is its fragmentation. As the Juniper report points out, only up to 4% of Android users are running the latest mobile OS, which, by the way, eliminates 7% of Android threats.

As we previously highlighted, carriers have their own share in making Android users vulnerable to malware: while Apple uniformly pushes out software updates to iPhone users on a global scale so iOS users will be running the latest and most secure OS, Android software updates are limited to carriers.

In other words: Android users should be very careful of what they install on their handsets.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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