Research conducted by vendor NQ Mobile and published in the Mobile Security Report confirms that Android officially surpassed Symbian as the most favored mobile platform targeted by malware designers.
The report indicates that in 2011 more sophisticated variants of malware infected as many as 10.8 million Android devices throughout the world, and the trend is expected to continue through 2012.
"Smartphones and tablets are finally delivering consumers with these converged and connected experiences we've been promised for so long. But this is a double edged sword: as smart device usage becomes more sophisticated, so too are cyber criminals' methods of attacking consumers' personal information," said says NQ Mobile's Omar Khan.
The conclusions were based on a database that receives samples from the company's cloud-based mobile security network comprised of more than 120 million customers.
Key findings in the report included:
- Malware threats to Android devices increased 1880 percent from January to December 2011
- More than 10.8 million Android devices worldwide were infected by malware
- The top countries with infected Android devices were China, India, the United States of America, Russia and the United Kingdom
The report also examined other malware trends based on the extensive data collected, including what the company has identified as the top three malware infection techniques:
- Piggybacking on Legitimate Apps: Malware developers download popular applications, insert malicious code and then place the application back onto a marketplace. When users download and install this application it immediately launches its payload into the users smart device.
- Upgrade Apps to Malicious Apps: Similar to piggybacking, malware developers insert a special upgrade component into a legitimate application allowing application to be updated to a new, malicious version.
- Enticing Users for Downloads: The ability to side load applications outside of official application marketplaces allows malware developers an easy way to entice users to download malicious apps.
The report also offered the following predictions for continued trends in mobile malware development:
- More piggybacking on legitimate banking and financial apps as well as malware dressed up as security protection applications
- More SMS fraud scams that charge users high rates for messaging and collect users' personal data
- More mobile botnets which will take advantage of security gaps and allow hackers to send messages, make phone calls and access user contacts and other personal information