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Android Malware Jumps Six-Fold In Three Months

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe’s Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Android threats continue to escalate, but how should businesses protect themselves?

Android malware has spiked again, rising six-fold in the third quarter of 2012, according to research from security heavyweight Trend Micro.

From 30,000 malicious and potentially dangerous Android apps in June, Trend claimed there were 175,000 by the end of September. Fake versions of legitimate apps were the most prevalent of all forms of Android malware.

“This quarter, data stealers like Solar Charge and premium service abusers like Live Wallpapers in China or fake versions of best-selling apps that spread in Russia further raised concerns about the open nature of the Android ecosystem,” Trend’s report read.

“We’ve now seen evidence of mobile apps being developed as targeted attack tools. Attackers are no longer just limiting their sights to computers as points of entry into target networks. Android’s popularity has definitely not gone unnoticed.”

Dealing with the Android malware nightmare

Android is generally considered to be the most targeted and most insecure mobile operating system, largely because of its open nature and its massive popularity.

It has been beset by malicious apps, as well as insecure software, as shown by a report out this week highlighting SSL weaknesses in over 1,000 applications.

The topic of how best to secure Android devices has become a major point of discussion in the security community. Some, like Cisco, do not foresee a bright future for mobile anti-virus. Instead, they believe network-based products, such as those services that containerise applications to separate corporate and personal data, are the future.

But Trend still believes AV has a place in the mobile world. Rik Ferguson, director of security research and communication for EMEA at Trend, told TechWeekEurope he thought AV was just part of wider endpoint solutions.

“Secure mobile device management should allow device and profile provisioning, management of functionality, activation and suppression of features based on factors such as time of day or location for example (automatically disable device cameras when in the data centre anyone?) ,” Ferguson said,

“It’s about pushing out obligatory apps, locking down access to App Store environments, detecting whether a device has been jailbroken, it’s about encryption, power management  and yes, it’s about anti-malware.

“Many of these functions simply cannot be achieved by network based technologies as they depend on direct interaction with the device in question and not only that a smartphone or other mobile device is designed to store and process (corporate) information locally and can operate on the corporate network or on a mobile provider’s network.

“Endpoint-based security technology will allow you to continuously monitor and enforce policy, wherever the device happens to be located.”

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