For all Google Android users and fans here is something to be panicked! There has been a 400% rise in malware on Google’s Android platform since the middle of last year and the problem is so severe that several Android anti-virus programs have been released recently.
There are over 200,000 applications on the Android App Store/Market today – up from 50,000 a year ago while the store was launched – but the huge growth in the platform has brought with it a rise in malicious apps designed to steal user data.
Unfortunately, this issue highlights the flaws in Google’s open store approach compared to the tightly controlled nature of Apple’s iTunes App Store.
Over the past few months, Android users have been victims of threats ranging from various levels of intensity. What began first as a threat tool for desktop users has now furthered onto the mobile users.
Keeping this view in mind, a host of anti-virus applications have been released in a last ditch. For instance, this week security firm Webroot released its Webroot Mobile Security for Android software, which is available on the Android Market. There is a free and paid version.
Even Google has been trying to be proactive to fight such malware attacks, but often the outcome has been far from desirable. One instance would be the attacks that a malicious app called DroidDream began doing rounds. Although Google did intervene but most of the damage had been done already.
In another instance, on Wednesday, Google removed multiple applications from its official Android Market application store that contained malware.
Google’s move came after AegisLab, a security firm based in Taiwan, released a security alert warning that applications including iBook, iCartoon, iGuide, iCalendar, Sea Ball, LoveBaby, and 3D Cube Horror Terrible — all published by “zsone”–contained code designed to quietly send SMS messages to premium telephone numbers in China, resulting in either a one-time charge or an ongoing subscription.
At least 11 Android apps contain malware that is rigged to automatically send text messages from your Google Android smartphone to phone numbers in China. Moreover, 17% of all reported smartphone infections “were due to SMS Trojans that sent SMS messages to premium-rate numbers, often at irretrievable cost to the user or enterprise.“
However, even though alarming the four-fold increase in malware targeting Android isn’t unexpected. “You don’t have to be extraordinarily smart to write mobile malware these days because most devices don’t have any security tools to stop the malware,” said Dan Hoffman, chief mobile security evangelist at Juniper Networks.
Asked whether the reported rise in Android malware meant anti-virus programs for the platform were desirable or necessary, a Google spokeswoman did not directly answer the question.
“We are committed to providing a secure Android Market experience for consumers,” the spokeswoman said.
In the meantime, watch where you procure mobile device applications, and especially beware third-party application stores, for example in China, where access to the official Android Market remains blocked. In particular, criminals often hide malware in clones of well-known applications, and especially Android games.