McAfee: Hackers increasingly targeting Android devices

Summary:Google's mobile platform remains in the crosshairs of hackers, warns McAfee. Some variants surged by more than 30 percent in the first quarter alone.

Cyber criminals are targeting everything from social networking sites to desktop machines, mobile devices and in some rare cases, medical equipment.

But more and more, Android is gaining focus in the hacker's eyes.

According to the latest McAfee Threat Report [PDF], which covers the first quarter of 2013, malware on the Google developed mobile platform surged by more than 30 percent in the first three months of the year. Mobile attacks remained on course to surpass 2012's total numbers. 

Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 11.00.29
Total mobile malware samples in the database Image: McAfee

According to the antivirus firm, mobile malware has also spread to booming smartphone economies, such as South Korea and India, the latter where there will be approximately 67 million smartphone subscribers in the country by the end of this year. This represents around 6 percent of the total Indian population. 

Overall, there are just shy of 51,000 new malicious attacks in McAfee's database of mobile malware samples for the first month. But, this is down slightly from the last three months of 2012. This is compared to just 792 samples in all of 2011.

Android takes the largest slice of the mobile malware by platform pie. Symbian was next with low single-digits percent, followed by Java, which by now is almost non-existent. Other platforms, such as BlackBerry and iOS, didn't even register.

Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 11.01.14
New Android malware Image: McAfee

McAfee said the threats of Android-based mobile commercial spyware and adware was declining, with many spyware and targeted attacks becoming more prominent. The increase in botnets is also clear, the company warns, reiterating comments made earlier this year when it warned that the more developed nations and regions are becoming a hotbed of activity .

Talking about targeted Trojans, the report reads: "As late as the end of last year, it was possible to say that the majority of mobile attacks were located in Russia and China. This quarter, however, we have seen criminals expand their activities to other parts of the world."

Many appear to be directly targeting activists, McAfee warns.

Also in the report, PCs remain the most targeted vector for hackers and attacks. McAfee reports a total of 128 million samples in its database.

Social networks are also being targeted, such as Facebook and Twitter, in order to trick friends and associates into installing malicious code. McAfee reported a "significant" spike in the Koobface work during the first quarter.

Topics: Malware, Android, Security

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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