Malware threats to the Android operating system have surged by more than 1,200% during the past three months, according to a new report by security firm McAfee.
In its quarterly Threats Report, McAfee said there had been a steep increase in malware attacking the platform. The firm collected and identified 7,000 threats through to 31 March 2012.
This represents a dramatic increase on the 600 samples it had identified in the quarter to 31 December 2011.
Vincent Weafer, senior VP of McAfee Labs, said: ‘The same skills and techniques that were sharpened on the PC platform are increasingly being extended to other platforms, such as mobile and Mac; and as more homes and businesses use these platforms, the attacks will spread, which is why all users, no matter their platforms, should take security and online safety precautions.’
McAfee revealed that the overwhelming majority of attacks on the Android platform came from third party marketplaces, rather than Google Play. The firm recommended that users only download apps from Google’s official marketplace. It added that the source of almost all of the malware attacks was either China or Russia.
The company said the most common form of malware is programs that generate financial profit. Among the examples given was a program that creates a fake landing page for a banking website. The program can then obtain a user’s security details when they try and access the fake site on their phone.
McAfee said there had been a significant increase in so-called ‘adware’, which displays advertisements on a user’s phone without permission. Other examples of this include a wallpaper that contains added sales pitches, and fake versions of games that send visitors to advertising sites.
The company added that the Android operating system had been targeted by a number of ‘Backdoor Trojans’, which allows the phone to be controlled by a third party. These trojans were most commonly used to send premium rate SMS messages from a hijacked phone.
However, the report also warned that Android had been targeted by one of the first destructive trojans. Dubbed ‘Moghava’, this malware searches for photos stored on an SD Card, and adds the image of the Ayatollah Khomeini to each photo.
The report said: ‘The writing is clearly on the wallpaper: we must protect all devices, mobile or otherwise, that have valuable data. If not, today’s cybercriminals will be happy to handle it for us.’