Mobile Malware Doubled in 2011 with Android OS the Biggest Target
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Malware that specifically targeted mobile operating systems increased in 2011 as smartphones became more popular with enterprise users, as well as consumers. These cyber-criminals also developed affection for the Google Android OS, which saw the biggest jump in malware during the past 12 months, according to a new report from Juniper Networks.
Malware targeting the Android mobile operating system grew by a whopping 3,325 percent in the last seven months of 2011, according to the 2011 Mobile Threat Report, which Juniper released Feb. 15. Android malware accounted for about 46.7 percent of unique malware samples that targeted mobile platforms, followed by 41 percent for Java Mobile Edition.
Overall, mobile malware more than doubled in 2011, growing by 155 percent across all platforms, which included Apple's iOS, Research In Motion's BlackBerry and Symbian. New malware samples targeting Java Mobile Edition increased by a little less than 50 percent in 2011. Java ME is popularly used on Symbian and Windows Mobile devices.
The Mobile Threat Center at Juniper Networks examined more than 793,631 applications and 28,472 unique malware samples to compile the report. Despite the eye-popping growth numbers, the total number for mobile malware remains minuscule, compared with malware targeting traditional computers.
The explosion in Android malware is a direct result of the platform's diverse and open marketplace, where developers are free to post their apps as well as growing market share, according to Juniper. Google's market share in the mobile space, at 46.9 percent, is statistically the same as the proportion of Android malware detected by Juniper.
Google's "Bouncer" service has been scanning apps in the Android Malware and removing offenders toward the second half of the year to make it harder for scammers to upload malicious apps. Bouncer will "certainly help" reduce infection rates from downloads on the official market of known threats, said Hoffman.
Apple is slightly more secure due to its screening policies and closed marketplace, but iOS users have their own set of mobile security challenges, according to the report. Jailbreaking remains common and users with iOS devices are vulnerable to malicious jailbreaking services that infect the device during the rooting process.
Mobile devices are just as vulnerable to browser-based attacks triggered when a user navigates to a malicious Website as computers. There are fewer choices available for iOS users when it comes to security products to protect them from these kinds of threats.