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Android malware makes up 79 percent of total threats, warns US Department of Homeland Security

29 Aug 2013
Google Android Malware

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned law enforcement, security and government workers against using outdated versions of Google Android, claiming that 79 percent of all mobile malware targets the platform.

The DHS issued the warning in a Roll Call Release for US emergency services. The department said criminal interest in Android is due to a combination of its impressive market share, open architecture and fragmented ecosystem.

High malware figures were cited as proof that agents using smart devices must ensure their phones and tablets always run the latest software available.

"Android is the world's most widely used mobile operating system (OS) and continues to be a primary target for malware attacks due to its market share and open source architecture," read the report. "The growing use of mobile devices by federal, state and local authorities makes it more important than ever to keep mobile OS patched and up to date."

Interestingly, despite being all but defunct, Nokia's ancient Symbian OS is the second most targeted, with the DHS finding that 19 percent of all mobile malware is designed for it.

While high, the 19 percent figure is probably a false indicator of criminals' interest in Symbian today, and is likely to be composed of older malware rather than dangerous new threats. Prior to the arrival of Android, Symbian was the OS of choice for criminals due to its ties to Nokia, but since buyers became more interested in Android and iOS, criminal interest in Symbian has waned.

Apple iOS and "other" operating systems were both listed as being the victims of 0.7 percent of all mobile malware. At the very bottom Windows Phone and BlackBerry were each listed as being the target of 0.3 percent of the world's mobile malware.

The low number of threats targeting Apple iOS, despite the popularity of its iPhone and iPad devices, is largely due to the closed security model. This model forces developers to sell their wares on Apple's official App Store, which closely vets all applications before allowing them into the marketplace.

Earlier this year F-Secure security expert Mikko Hypponen praised Apple for its robust security, listing the App Store as one of the security community's greatest achievements.

The findings mirror those of numerous security vendors. Kaspersky Labs reported detecting 100,000 mobile malware variants targeting Android during the second quarter of 2013, in its IT Threat Evolution report.

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Alastair Stevenson
About

Alastair has worked as a reporter covering security and mobile issues at V3 since March 2012. Before entering the field of journalism Alastair had worked in numerous industries as both a freelance copy writer and artist.

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