Mobile Malware Sees ‘Exponential’ 614 Percent Growth

Mobile malware grows by 614 percent year-over-year, whilst adware is proving a menace for Android users too

Mobile malware has grown exponentially over the past year, according to research, with a 614 percent rise in samples from March 2012 to the same month in 2013.

There were 38,689 mobile malware samples, covering all platforms, in the first quarter of 2012, which rose to 276,259 a year later. Juniper Networks believes its findings show the mobile malware business has grown from a “cottage industry to a developed market”.

Three quarters of all the samples analysed by the firm were types of SMS fraud software, sending messages from infected phones to premium rate numbers, with the crooks taking a large slice of the charge.

Another mobile malware spike

Android remains the top target, as cyber crooks are making it their platform of choice in the same way they chose Windows over other operating systems. Google’s OS is responsible for 92 percent of all known malware, according to Juniper. Just a year ago, only 47 percent of all mobile malware was aimed at Android.

A separate report from mobile security firm Lookout revealed that 6.5 percent of apps on Google Play app store contain adware, which can do things like unexplained collection of personal information and changes to personal settings. Adware is found in legitimate apps where harmless ads should be, but certain ad networks like their code to do more than just market.

Tens of millions of users have downloaded adware from the official Google store, according to Lookout.


Whilst malware does appear on the Google Play store, a bigger problem is the third-party outlets.

Michael Callahan, vice president of security product marketing at Juniper Networks, told TechWeekEurope there were over 500 third-party Android app stores that contained malware. And they don’t inspect the code sitting on their virtual shelves at all, he said.

“An interesting cut of that is that 300 of them originated in Russia or China,” Callahan added.

“This is a broad statement, but as you move away from the US, and away from central Europe, users will go to some of these non-traditional stores.”

Despite the growth in mobile malware, many don’t see it as a major threat yet. In May, F-Secure released its own findings, revealing there were only 149 mobile malware families, far less than those aimed at PCs. This led the company to say there was “no crisis”.

But Callahan said the mobile threat had “come to fruition”. “Now the malware developers are figuring out a way to leverage these phones… they aren’t looking to take the data from the phone.

“It’s not like the phone has hundreds of PowerPoints or Excel spreadsheets.”

Think you know everything about Android? Try our quiz!