Android malware still rising despite Google's security improvements

Q3 figure reaches 51,477 unique files

Android's 2012 security overhaul hasn't stopped the volume of global threats targeting the mobile OS continuing to rise at an alarming rate, F-Secure's latest mobile threat report has found.

The company noticed 51,447 unique Android malware samples in the third quarter, an unexpectedly huge jump from Q2's figure of just over 5,000 and around 3,000 in Q1.

Each one of these files was a single instance of 67 malware variants and families the company identified as being active in the same period, which suggests that the rise is probably best explained as signalling that criminals are launching more attacks with roughly the same malware types to choose from.

According to F-Secure, Android's malware problem can be explained by its huge popularity across the world, coupled to high growth rates; Android's market share in China - now the world's largest smartphone market by units - is currently 81 percent, the company said.

In these countries, Google's overhauled Play Store is only one among a diversity of sources for Android applications, a fragmentation wrinkle malware-distributors have been quick to exploit. People seem happy to download apps from third-party sites.

As F-Secure's detailed list of malware examples illustrates, the majority of rogue apps are driven by simple SMS tariff fraud.

After a complacent start, Google has shown signs of getting on top of its embarrassing malware problem, first reinventing the Market as Play, a supervised single location for app downloads.

In February it also instituted 'Bouncer', an automated security scanning system designed to weed out malware before it gets near users. This has had some success but the sheer size and fragmentation of the OS still works against the company is some parts of the world.

It would be a mistake to see Android malware as something only Chinese and Russian users have to worry about. In May, a Latvian company was fined for deceiving users with a 'wrapper' app impersonating Angry Birds. Total number of UK users affected by its SME deception: 1,400 that came to light, possibly that didn't.

The oddity of the mobile malware world revealed by F-Secure is underlined by the fact that the defunct Symbian OS still attracts the interest of malware writers, with a 17 percent rise recorded in new examples hitting its still large but dwindling user base in Q3.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags mobile applicationsPersonal TechAndroid OSGooglesecurityf-securemobilemalware

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by John E Dunn

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts