Despite Google’s efforts to introduce stricter quality controls, the number amount of malicious activity on the operating system rose by nearly 500% in the last quarter.
A new report from security firm Trend Micro has revealed that Android users are more at risk than ever from malicious activity within the operating system. The amount of adware classed as malicious or designed to steal user information rose by a massive 483% in the last quarter.
The news will be a blow to Android users, especially after Google took steps to combat the issues on its operating system by introducing stricter developer policies. Despite these measures, however, the amount of activity conducted by malicious apps in the Google Play store has actually risen since then.
The new policies included stricter controls on naming apps, and banned apps from collecting personal information with users’ permission first. The Trend Micro report revealed that this move has made little difference, with many copycat apps and suspicious practices still rife in the Google Play Store.
The biggest threats
The report identified two factors that could be a risk to Android users: malicious apps and harmful adware.
Posing as legitimate Android apps, malicious apps are designed to steal personal information. Users have also described instances where apps have taken over their smartphone, rendering it unuseable, or contacted premium numbers without the user knowing, resulting in huge cell phone bills.
Trend Micro also described a rise in apps using “aggressive adware” that collects personal information, sometimes without the user knowing. This type of advertising is difficult to control as it is often distributed through legitimate advertising networks. The company called on developers to be more transparent about the kind of information they collect and what it is used for.
A glimpse of the future
Raimund Genes, CTO at Trend Micro said that the network’s popularity has likely contributed to the increase in malware and information theft:
“It’s no surprise that we see such a huge increase in mobile malware. Android is the dominant smartphone platform with an amazing success story. The digital underground reads statistics and analysts reports as well, and they have figured out ways to make money with mobile malware. And unlike your computer, getting information from your phone also reveals your location, the phone numbers you have called and more – all stuff which could be sold.”
Android is now the most popular smartphone operating system on the market, and also has the market share in terms of devices that use the OS. Rik Ferguson, director of security research at Trend Micro, said that he doesn’t expect the threat to decrease anytime soon, and that these most recent figures illustrate the challenge Android users could face in the future when it comes to protecting their personal data”
“Active and sustained criminal interest in the Android platform is a reality and looks set to continue for the foreseeable future until some fundamental and necessary changes are made to the infrastructure and some important security lessons are relearned at operating-system level.”
What Google will do to try to combat these latest figures remains to be seen. Although Android’s security vulnerabilities have been a hot topic for some time now, this latest study shows how important it is for users to install some form of protection. Separate research recently showed that only 20% of Android users have installed a security app. Just as PC users now install anti-virus software as a default, all Android users should be doing to same to protect their personal information and their device.