Spyware, SMS Trojans invade smartphones: report

Your smartphone may be your all-time companion and you probably use it innumerable times on any given day. You also take care to exchange data only with known people and carry out transactions in a secure manner. But your device can still be vulnerable to malware threats or is possibly, already under attack.

Mobile security research firm Juniper Networks has examined a huge number of mobile SW issues that resulted after various kinds of malware attacks. The firm scanned a total of 790,000 apps during the study. In its ‘2011 Mobile Threats Report’, the firm makes a few salient observations that should raise the alarm for mobile SW developers and manufacturers.

The key finding in the report is also one that will make us worry the most. It points out that a significantly large percentage of the affected smartphones were mobiles based on Android OS!

In the short period between June and December 2011, Google’s open source OS alone seemed like a prime target, registering an alarming spurt of 3325 percent in malware attack incidence. Since it is believed to be the most widely used OS in mobiles across various price points, this vulnerability to accelerating malware may pose a threat to the fortunes of mobile companies.

On an overall basis, i.e. across all platforms, there was a 155 percent increase in malware attacks during 2011.

The most rapidly growing malware type of the year was fake installers. You encounter these when you download an app that you think is free. In reality, it is a pirated version of the app and you are tricked into paying for it.

As mobile devices evolve, so do the malware, almost in tandem. The latest malware are nearly as complex and sophisticated as the devices they attack. Devices are particularly susceptible when users download apps as these provide an opportunity to hackers. The more apps a user downloads, the more he/she places the devices at risk from attack.

Is your Android mobile under attack

Smartphone under attacks by spyware & SMS Trojans

Among classes of mobile malware, a huge majority was from spyware and SMS Trojans. While spyware accounted for almost 2/3rds the Trojans made up 36 percent of the attacks.

Another surprising observation: no single platform was fully secure. Even Apple’s iOS that was touted to be the most secure was not ‘untouched’. Juniper noted that some researchers, in 2011, had made it to the Apple App Store and added an ‘unapproved’ app on it.

In closing, the Juniper report also urged smartphone users to take the necessary steps to secure their devices and asked device makers to include tools with which devices and apps can be managed without the threat of malware.

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