Malicious Android apps doubled in Q1

Warnings over ability to 'Trojanise' Android apps
Warnings over ability to 'Trojanise' Android apps

The number of malicious applications on the Android marketplace doubled from 10,000 to 20,000 in just one month.

According to research by Trend Micro, in the first three months of this year, it identified 5,000 malicious applications, a number which has spiked more than four-fold over subsequent months. It said that the most common type of malicious app (accounting for 30 per cent of all those Trend Micro encountered) is one disguised as a highly popular legitimate app.

It also recommended users to avoid 'spy' apps that allow attackers to spy on the device by monitoring its GPS signal and reading any text and address book information. Two of these types of threats, named Spy Tool and Spy Phone PRO+, were recently spotted by Trend Micro as downloadable apps in Google Play.

Rik Ferguson, director of security research and communications at Trend Micro, said: “The growth in Android malware demonstrates sustained and focused criminal interest in the mobile platform and particularly in the Android operating system.

“Criminals have always followed user behaviour and they continue to do so. As we move steadily to the mobile web, mobile devices offer new avenues for criminal revenue generation alongside the continuation of the old. Consumers need to use care when downloading and installing apps and should be considering installing anti-malware on their mobile devices.”

Trend Micro also said that third-party stores are likely to pose even greater security risks and warned users to remain cautious on such sites about what they download.

David Harley, senior research fellow at Eset, said: “These figures are higher than the company will be comfortable with, given that it really has tried to use its Bouncer technology to raise its game on pre-filtering software submitted for its own outlet, as well as reacting quickly when advised that there is malware in the wild. But, unless it tries harder to regulate other outlets, malware authors have too many windows of opportunity to exploit compared to Apple's hard-line policy on outlets.

“Of course, the take-up of Android has been pretty significant: that in itself makes it an attractive target. There are quite a few security programs available for Android now, though mainstream anti-virus seems to be more reliable than most of the freeware, and of course a certain amount of common sense fills some of the gaps that reactive detection leaves.”

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