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Mobile security threat reaches new heights – report

Veronica C. Silva | Feb. 17, 2012
Google's Android a top target

Popularity has its price. Google's Android operating system (OS) may be the top favourite for mobile devices. But a new report shows that Android is also a favourite target of cyber criminals.

Juniper Networks recently released its 2011 Mobile Threats Report which revealed a record number of attacks on the mobile platform. In particular, the number of malware targeting the Android OS has increased by 3,325 percent in the last seven months of 2011.

"In 2011, mobile malware reached a new level of maturity. With significantly more malware than ever before, threats became more sophisticated and the barrier to entry continued to remain low," stated the Juniper Networks report.

The Juniper Networks Mobile Threat Center -- a centre focused exclusively to mobile security research -- identified a 155 percent increase in mobile malware across all mobile device platforms.

Favourite OS

Android recently surpassed the Apple iOS as the top favourite OS for smartphones, according to a new report released by Gartner. For the fourth quarter 2011, Android had a 50.9 percent market share compared to only 23.8 percent for the iOS.

The Juniper Networks report noted that research on the Apple iOS was limited because of its "closed nature", but security researchers were able to make some breakthrough last year when they got an unapproved application onto the Apple App Store.

Research into Apple iOS security remains limited given the closed nature of its platform; but in 2011, security researchers were successful in getting an unapproved application onto the Apple App Store.

Data for the Juniper Networks report examined more than 790,000 applications and vulnerabilities across every major mobile device OSes.  

The research revealed that spyware and SMS Trojans were the most common types of malware that are targeting mobile devices.

Point of entry

It was easy for cyber criminals to launch their attacks. The applications that mobile users download on their mobile phones become the "killer app" for these cyber criminals and are the most popular way to compromise devices, said the report.

"It is vital that consumers and businesses take the necessary security precautions when using mobile devices. Securing mobile devices requires a combination of safeguarding connections from interception, securing data in transit from prying eyes or theft, protecting against fast propagating malware, possessing the tools to manage devices and apps, and securing the data, usernames and passwords on them in the event that they are lost or stolen," said Sanjay Beri, vice president and general manager, Junos Pulse Business Unit, Juniper Networks.

For 2012, Juniper Networks is not expecting a let down in malware attacks, especially for the Android platform.

"Google's recent announcement that it will scan the Android Market for malware will also lead to an increase in malicious applications found on third-party markets, as well as an increase in malware variants attempting to bypass these new security measures within the Android Market," stated the report.

The report also warned of attacks relating to banking applications as these applications become more popular.


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