Smartphone Malware To Increase In 2013
December 16, 2012

Mobile Malware Expected To Increase Exponentially In 2013

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Two firms specializing in mobile security are predicting that handheld devices, especially those powered by Android, will be hit hard by malware in the year ahead.

According to BGR's Dan Graziano, the folks at Lookout Mobile Security reported Thursday that an estimated 18 million devices running Google's operating system might become infected with some type of virus, spyware, or other mobile malware in 2013.

The odds that users will encounter malware depend largely upon their behaviors, as well as their physical locations. Smartphone and tablet computer users in the US have only a 0.40% chance of experiencing malware, while those residing in Russia have a 34.7% chance, Graziano said.

While 18 million might sound like a high number, Robert Nelson of Android Community points out that "it could be considered small when you compare it to how many users are actually sporting an Android device. In other words, with some common sense being used, the issue with mobile malware is probably not one that many people should worry about all that much."

Nelson added that Lookout also expects the frequency of mobile fraud to increase, and that their report warns that toll fraud "will continue to dominate as the chosen monetization strategy for mobile malware writers." The Android Community writer advised that smartphone and tablet owners should exercise caution when installing new apps and regularly review their wireless bills to ensure that there are no fraudulent or unauthorized charges.

Lookout's findings echo those of security software developer Eset, which released a report last week in which they predicted "an exponential growth of mobile malware" during the year ahead. Furthermore, they predict that those viruses and spyware will also increase in complexity, becoming capable of performing a greater array of different malicious activities on the devices which they infect.

Eset believes that the trend is linked to the growing smartphone adoption rate, particularly those running the Android OS, as well as the increased use of handheld gadgets to complete monetary transactions, explains PCWorld's John P. Mello Jr.

As more people are beginning to use the devices, especially to transmit sensitive information such as credit card or checking account numbers, "it is logical to expect cybercriminals to create computer threats to profit from this situation," the Slovakia-based IT company said in their report. Android smartphones are particularly at risk due to their rising market share -- 64% in 2012, up from 43% in 2011, they said.

"As Android's market share rises and people use it more and more to store personal and corporate information, or for online banking or related services, cyber criminals will develop more malware to steal information, thus gaining illicit revenue," Eset said, according to Mello. "Malware targeting Android will not only keep on rising at a considerable rate, but also will continue to evolve until they are very similar in capability to their peers in the world of more traditional computers."

Lookout offered some advice for keeping themselves safe against the rising tide of mobile malware. According to Nelson, they advise people to always verify URLs, to educate themselves about the permissions requested by various apps, and to make sure that their phone's software is always up to date.