US Government Issues Warning Over Android’s Dominance in Mobile Malware

by Istvan Fekete on August 28, 2013

While Android is nearing 80% of global market share, its dominance doesn’t mean it excels in every aspect of a mobile operation system. In fact, Google’s mobile platform accounts for the vast majority of mobile malware, which has prompted the US government to issue a warning to government agencies that Android phones should have antivirus software on board as a precaution.

The popularity of Android and its open-source architecture also makes the platform the primary target for malware attacks. Also, the government points to industry reports based on Google’s own stats, which say that 44% of Android users are running old versions of the mobile platform — 2.3.3 through 2.3.7 — known as Gingerbread, which was released a couple of years ago (back in 2011).

While this may not sound like an issue (some iOS users are still running iOS 4.3), the real problem is that Gingerbread has a number of security vulnerabilities that were fixed in later versions.

The warning message comes at the height of the rapid adoption of Android devices by federal, state and local authorities: this makes the demand for an up-to-date Android handset very important.

The data cited by the government is based on 2012 malware stats signed by F-Secure and published earlier this year, revealing that Android is responsible for 79% of mobile malware. This is the same report Phil Schiller was pointing to when he tweeted, “be safe out there”, referring to Android users.

Nearly 50% of the instances of malware detected on Gingerbread are text message trojans, which means hackers can send text messages to premium-rate numbers, which obviously charge the user. Rootkits are also part of the security threat highlighted by Homeland Security: these are malware that hide their existence from normal forms of detection, and log the user’s locations, keystrokes and passwords without the user’s knowledge.

Another threat cited by Homeland Security is in the form of fake Google Play domains, which trick users into installing malware, stealing sensitive information.

The government recommends installing “Carrier IQ Test” , a free application that can detect and remove malicious software.
An interesting highlight of the report is that iOS follows Android with a distant 0.7%, while BlackBerry ranks third (along with Windows Mobile) with 0.3% in terms of mobile malware.

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

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