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Android users targeted by over 99 percent of mobile malware

30 Apr 2014
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More than 99 percent of new mobile malware is designed to target Google's Android operating system (OS), according to security firm F-Secure.

F-Secure reported that more than 99 percent of the 277 new mobile threat families it detected during the first quarter of the year were designed to infect Android devices, in its Mobile Threat Report Q1 2014.

The figure marked a spike in Android malware levels. F-Secure reported that 91 percent of detected mobile malware targeted Google's OS during Q1 2013. The increase was indicative of a wider year-on-year increase in mobile malware levels. F-Secure detected only 149 new mobile malware variants in Q1 2013.

Great Britain was the most targeted region during the quarter, with F-Secure reporting blocking an average of 15-20 malware files per 10,000 Android users. By comparison, F-Secure blocked an average of 5-10 malware files for every 10,000 users in the US, India and Germany.

F-Secure warned that Android malware is getting more sophisticated, revealing that it detected its first bootkit and crypto currency-mining mobile attacks during Q1 2014.

The crypto currency-mining malware is designed to hijack control of an infected Android device and force it to mine for virtual currencies, such as Litecoin and Bitcoin, without the user's knowledge.

The bootkit attack was highlighted as particularly dangerous as it affects the earliest stages of an Android device's bootup routine. The early stage of the attack process makes the malware more difficult to detect and remove.

Chief research officer at F-Secure Mikko Hypponen said he expects to see more evolved mobile malware variants appear in the near future.

"These developments give us signs as to the direction of malware authors," said Hypponen. "We'll very likely see more of these in the coming months. For example, mobile phones are getting more powerful, making it possible for cyber criminals to profit by using them to mine for crypto currencies."

Despite the discovery of the advanced attacks, the majority of the mobile malware detected during the period was fairly basic. F-Secure reported 83 percent of all mobile malware during the period was designed to force infected devices to send SMS messages to premium numbers or SMS-based subscription services.

F-Secure's findings mirror those of numerous other technology vendors. Telecoms giant Cisco reported that 99 percent of all detected mobile malware targeting its customers was designed to infect Android in January.

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Alastair Stevenson

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.

View Alastair's Google+ profile

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