February 27, 2013

A Mad Explosion of Android Malware


Commtouch, an Internet security technology and cloud-based services vendor, has just released a new security report that pointedly notes that Q4 2012 brought with it an "exponential" rise in Android malware and Web threats specifically targeting mobile users. Needless to say, but we'll note it anyway, the significant rise in Android malware comes at a time of explosive Android growth at the lower end of the smartphone market, where users are likely to be both less sophisticated and less worried about mobile device security - it's not a happy thought.

The report - Commtouch's February 2013 Internet Threats Trend Report - highlights that Android malware levels increased more than five times between September and December 2012. Commtouch researchers also discovered a non-trivial increase in email-based malware during the same Q4 2012 period.

How bad is it and how does Commtouch come to these conclusions? It turns out the assertions are based on some hard facts - by the end of the quarter Commtouch's lab had collected more than 214,000 samples of Android malware. This compares to the previous quarter's approximately 41,000 and to approximately 14,000 samples the quarter before that. This does indeed mark a precipitous rise in malware incidents.

India remained the number one hotspot for spam-sending zombies during the period in question. India accounted for 17.5 percent of such incidents, but in reality India actually shaved 1.5 percentage points over the previous quarter's 20 percent. An improvement, yes, but still far ahead of its nearest rival for the dubious title, that being China, which weighed in at a modest 9.5 percent. Vietnam was next on the list with eight percent - so together they equal India's 17.5 percent. Asia remains the dominant global region in Commtouch's list. The United States landed in eighth place with a 2.7 percent share.

Average daily spam level was 90 billion messages per day in Q4 2012, representing only a slight increase over the previous quarter. Spam averaged between 71 and 80 percent of all emails sent globally during Q4 2012.The lowest level was 52 billion recorded on the last day of 2012 (spam levels typically drop during the Christmas to New Year period). The highest daily hit was an unusual spike of 134 billion in early December.

Spam isn't as great an issue as the huge growth in Android malware incidents. Avi Turiel, director of Threat Research and Market Analysis at Commtouch notes that, "Android is by far the most popular mobile operating system in the world today, with a market share of more than 75 percent in the third quarter. Its popularity makes it a natural target for cyber criminals of all kinds."

The issue certainly underscores why many enterprises are still reluctant to deal with Android devices as a part of large scale BYOD deployments. It is also why Samsung continues to look for its own independent ways of better securing Android for the enterprise.

Turiel adds, "The alarming growth rate also demonstrates that the Android platform is still regarded as an easy target. Effective protective measures are urgently needed."

The entire Commtouch February 2013 Internet Threats Trend Report is available for viewing.




Edited by Jamie Epstein



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