Android A Favorite Target For Malware
May 2, 2014

Mobile Malware Overwhelmingly Targets Android Users

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

Mobile malware is on the rise, and Android gets the brunt of the harmful software. That's according to the Mobile Threat Report released by F-Secure this week detailing activities in the first quarter of 2014.

Android accounts for nearly all mobile malware. More than 99 percent of new mobile threats discovered by F-Secure during the period of the report were for the open source platform. The report identified 277 new threat families and variants. Of those 277, 275 targeted Android, one targeted iPhone and one targeted Symbian. The number of threats has increased since the same period last year when F-Secure identified 149 new threat families and variants, 91 percent targeted Android.

F-Secure identified a number of firsts in Android malware. The company noticed the first cryptocurrency miner, which hijacks the device to mine for virtual currencies such as Litecoin. F-Secure also saw the first bootkit, which affects the earliest stages of the device's bootup routine. The first Tor Trojan and Windows banking Trojan were also identified in Q1.

“These developments give us signs to the direction of malware authors,” said Mikko Hyppönen, Chief Research Officer at F-Secure, in a corporate statement. “We’ll very likely see more of these in the coming months. For example, mobile phones are getting more powerful, making it possible for cybercriminals to profit by using them to mine for cryptocurrencies.”

Roughly 91 percent of threats identified in Q1 2014 were categorized as malware, as they posed a significant security risk to the user's device, or the information on the device. F-Secure classified the remainder of threats as Potentially Unwanted Apps (PUA). These PUA apps could inadvertently introduce risks to the user's privacy or compromise the security of the device if the app were misused.

A number of factors make the Android platform attractive to hackers.

“Android has a fairly unique model for code and device access compared to some of the other mobile platforms – most notably, Apple. The flexibility of Android makes it easy for users to root their phones, to install applications from anywhere, and to be completely in charge of their own device. It’s not a more secure/less secure issue, but in part is based on user base, design philosophy and availability of tools, documentation, and hardware," Dr. Richard Ford, CEO and president of the Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization (AMTSO), told redOrbit. Dr. Ford is also the co-director of the Harris Institute for Assured Information and the Harris Professor of Assured Information at the Florida Institute of Technology.

"We don’t really expect any near-term mobile platform to be bullet proof, and it’s wrong to attribute the sheer amount of malware to any one factor – in fact, it is a very nuanced thing. For all users, regardless of platform, we’d recommend applying updates as they become available, as well as using security products to bolster their security stance," said Dr. Ford.

Android has numbers that hackers find worthwhile to infiltrate. Last fall the Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report released by research firm IDC cited that Android exceeds 80 percent of the worldwide phone market. Shipments of Android devices are expected to surpass 1.1 billion in 2014. While the shipment record primarily covers smartphones and tablets, other devices are coming online on the Android platform. A number of wearable devices use Android, and could potentially be effected by Android-targeted malware.