Only this time, it’s not a guy with a mask and gun sprinting off down the back alley. No, this kind of attack takes place in broad daylight, following the installation of increasingly popular malicious apps. You may not even notice at first as those dazzling 3G speeds spirit away your personal information faster than the speediest burglar  – but you’ll find the stolen data much more difficult to recover.

Broad daylight or not, a recent report from Lookout Mobile Security trends a recent steep rise in the mobile malware reported in their databases, from around 80 in January 2011 to more than 400 in June. Vendors are clamoring to fill the apparently deepening security void with new mobile security offerings. A new report from Jupiter Research pegs mobile device security software sales over the next five years at an estimated $3.7 billion  – no small chunk of change.

In addition to the droves of consumers snapping up new mobile devices every day, Androids (and other platforms) are also seeping into corporate and enterprise infrastructures. As the technology is adopted and matures, the IT policy and compliance initiatives already in place to protect company data must now grapple with how to bring these devices up to an acceptable security baseline.

To the delight of tech-savvy thieves, many people don’t think of their mobile devices as being at risk in the same way – even those for whom security precautions have become second nature when using their computers at work and at home. But think about it. Your mobile device, like your laptop, has a browser. It can send and receive email, display documents, check stock prices and, oh, yes  – make phone calls.

So what should you do? Well, keeping an eye out for something that just doesn’t “look right” when installing an app is a good place to start. If you’re installing a relatively simple app, it really shouldn’t be asking for permission to probe the depths of your mobile device. Check around before installing software and see what other users’ experiences have been. Does the vendor have a good reputation? One simple precaution you can take is to download your apps from the native market app on your device, where you’ll be able to see user rankings and popularity. It’s easier to benefit from someone else’s mistake if you know about it.

You also can consider installing security software. Not surprisingly, many users want a security solution they can just install and not worry about. But whether you choose to implement a software solution or to rely on reviews and rankings, it’s important to try to spot bad “app-les” before accidentally biting into one. Keeping your digital guard up when downloading apps can go a long way toward keeping your data and your device safe on the mobile internet.