F-Secure: Android to blame for 79% of all mobile malware in 2012

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Malware targeting Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) open-source Android operating system was responsible for 79 percent of all mobile threats identified in 2012, up from 66 percent the previous year, reports digital security firm F-Secure.

The overwhelming number of malware threats facing Android is a direct reflection of the platform's global growth, F-Secure explains. As recently as 2010, Android accounted for just 11 percent of malware, while Symbian--at that time still the leading open-source smartphone OS in terms of international market share--attracted 62 percent of threats. As of late 2012, Android now powers 68.8 percent of all smartphones while Symbian has plummeted to 3.3 percent, and as a result, just 19 percent of malware now targets Symbian devices.

"Malware in general has a parasitic relationship with its host," said Sean Sullivan, Security Advisor at F-Secure Labs. "As old Symbian handsets continue to be replaced by those with other operating systems, especially Android, Symbian malware dies off and will probably go extinct in 2013. May it rest in peace."

F-Secure notes that Trojans accounted for 66 percent of mobile malware detections last year, a number the firm expects to drop in 2012 following Google's release of Android 4.2, a.k.a. Jelly Bean, which bakes in new application verification tools. Just 1.6 percent of devices currently run Android 4.2, according to Google's Android Developers Dashboard; in addition, a study published late last year by a North Carolina State University computer science professor maintains the 4.2 update identifies only 15.32 percent of known malware.

F-Secure adds that 21 of the 96 Android threat variants identified during the fourth quarter of 2012 were contributed by Premium SMS, a malware family that sends out messages to premium rate numbers. "Many more Android threats employ similar tactics, some signing up the victim to an SMS-based subscription service," the company explains. "Messages or notifications from these numbers and services are deleted, keeping the user unaware until charges appear on their bills."

F-Secure also anticipates surveillance-related threats will increase as spying and monitoring tools become a larger part of the malware mix.

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