Report finds 1,200 percent boom in Android malware

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Android app lies to users that their device is infected by viruses, asks for money
Android app lies to users that their device is infected by viruses, asks for money

The rate of Android malware has increased tremendously this year, according to the quarterly "McAfee Threats Report."

Of the 8,000 malware samples collected by researchers, 7,000 belong to the popular mobile operating system, indicating a 1,200 percent increase between the last quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, according to the study.

Due to the platform's freely exposed code model, giving users the opportunity to download applications outside of Android's official marketplace, third-party marts often are responsible for the spread of malicious apps, said James Walter, manager of McAfee's Threat Intelligence Service.

“The openness of the platform and the rapid adoption of the platform are the two biggest contributors,” Walter told SCMagazine.com on Wednesday. “It's a very customizable platform, which makes it very attractive for malware writers.”

The primary motivation for mobile virus authors is financial profit, according to a blog post by Carlos Castillo, malware researcher for McAfee Labs. Devices compromised by deceptive applications are able to take commands similar to a botnet setup, enabling attackers to take control of the device to send SMS messages to premium-rate numbers, Walter said.

“At some point that money goes through several channels, but ends up in some form of currency, be it an account, Bitcoins, or PayPal,” he said.

The study also revealed that malware intended for the Mac OS X platform has increased, a trend heavily influenced by the Flashback trojan outbreak in March when nearly 650,000 computers became infected worldwide. While malware has been created for Apple's mobile platform, iOS, it isn't nearly as sophisticated and requires heavy user interaction for a device to become infected, Walter said.

However, as OS X increases in popularity, Apple's mobile platform may also fall into hacker cross hairs, he said.

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