Android malware accounted for 79pc of all mobile threats in 2012

7 Mar 2013

While there has been an abrupt drop in malware targeting the declining Symbian platform to just 4pc of all mobile threats, malware targeted at the Android ecosystem accounted for 79pc of all mobile threats detected in 2012, according to a report by F-Secure.

The F-Secure research found that 301 total new threat families and variants were detected in 2012. The numbers are starkly reversed from 2010, when Symbian malware accounted for 62pc of threats and Android just 11pc.

“Malware, in general, has a parasitic relationship with its host,” said Sean Sullivan, security adviser at F-Secure Labs.

“As old Symbian handsets continue to be replaced by those with other operating systems, especially Android, Symbian malware dies off and will probably go extinct in 2013. May it rest in peace.”

Some 66pc of mobile malware detections in 2012 were trojans, a number Sullivan expects to drop in the coming year with Google’s release of Android 4.2 Jellybean late last year.

The extra security prompts when downloading in 4.2 should help deflect trojans, and as spying and monitoring tools increasingly become part of the mix, surveillance-related threats will account for a greater portion, he says.

A large share of the Android threats found in Q4 were malware that generate profit through fraudulent SMS practices. Twenty-one of the 96 Android threat variants found were contributed by Premium SMS, a malware family that sends out messages to premium-rate numbers.

Many more Android threats employ similar tactics, some signing up the victim to an SMS-based subscription service. Messages or notifications from these numbers and services are deleted, keeping the user unaware until charges appear on their bills.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years