McAfee: Malware surging on mobile platforms, especially Android

Malware is becoming a very dangerous problem for mobile operating systems, and Android is becoming the top target.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor on

Mobile platforms are anything but safe from malware, based on the second quarter Threats Report from McAfee.

Android, in particular, was found to be the most vulnerable mobile operating system on the market, as malware targeted towards Google's OS has skyrocketed 76 percent since the previous quarter. That's a very sobering statistic for both Android developers and device owners.

McAfee went so far as to call Android the "most attacked mobile operating system," surpassing Symbian OS as the most popular target. Still, Symbian OS and Java ME remain the most targeted to date.

Because of the rapid escalation, McAfee has dubbed this situation as a "Malware Zoo," as McAfee researchers predict that the the grand total of total malware samples will reach at least 75 million by the end of 2011. The total currently stands at approximately 65 million.

Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs, explained in a release:

This year we’ve seen record breaking numbers of malware, especially on mobile devices, where the uptick is in direct correlation to popularity. Overall attacks are becoming more stealth and more sophisticated, suggesting that we could see attacks that remain unnoticed for longer periods of time. High-profile hacktivist groups have also changed the landscape by drawing a line between attacks for personal gain and attacks meant to send a message.

McAfee warned that malware, particularly for Android, could appear in "everything from calendar apps, to comedy apps to SMS messages to a fake Angry Birds updates."

Other highlights from the study:

  • Apple has become more of a target for malware authors as more Mac OS X computers are being affected by fake anti-virus software
  • Stealth malware has increased more rapidly in the last six months than in any previous period with an increase of nearly 38 percent than the same time last year
  • Hacktivists, primarily Anonymous and LulzSec, were among some of the most prominent cyber news generators for Q2
  • At least 20 global attacks were reported in Q2 alone, and with the majority allegedly stemming from LulzSec

On the bright side, spam is being issued at historically low levels.


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