Mobiles on 4G networks comprise the lion's share of the more than 11.6 million mobile devices infected with malware at any given time, with the rate of mobile infection soaring ahead of infections of fixed-broadband users, according to new research into malware infections released by Alcatel-Lucent subsidiary Kindsight.
Overall, malware infections increased by 20 per cent in 2013, the report found, with 4G LTE devices the most likely to be infected and 0.55 per cent of all mobile devices infected during the last quarter of 2013, the company's observations have shown.
Consistent with other observations about mobile malware, Android devices accounted for 60 per cent of mobile network infections – many of which suffered Trojanised applications downloaded from third party app stores, the Google Play Store or through phishing scams. iPhone and BlackBerry devices comprised less than 1 percent of infections.
Forty per cent of mobile malware came from Windows laptops tethered to a phone or through a mobile USB stick, the company said.
According to its figures, the infection rate on fixed networks declined during the quarter, from 9.6 per cent in October 2013 to 8.7 per cent in December and 10 per cent for the whole year. This included 6 per cent of customers infected with what the company called “high-level” threats such as bots, rootkits, and banking Trojans.
“Criminals traditionally go after low hanging fruit,” said security architect and Kindsight Security Labs director Kevin McNamee in a statement. “Not only is Android the largest smartphone market; unlike iPhone and BlackBerry, it allows apps to be loaded from third party sites.”
“This provides cyber criminals with an un-policed mechanism to distribute their malware which can easily evade detection by device-based antivirus. Thus, in 2013 we saw an increased trend towards operators offering network based anti-virus security to subscribers as a service.”
Kindsight is far from the only company warning of the growing dangers of Android: FireEye researcher Hitesh Dmarmdasani, for one, recently told CSO Australia that the best way for Android users to avoid malware was to restrict their downloading to the Google Play store – and even then, to exercise appropriate levels of caution.