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Android vulnerabilities escalate: report

Trend Micro Q2 research reveals 41% surge in ‘malicious’ apps from previous quarter

Android vulnerabilities escalate: report
The number of malicious and high-risk Android apps has grown to 718,000 in the second quarter.

Android vulnerabilities, increased online banking threats and availability of sophisticated, inexpensive malware toolkits are among the growing concerns cited in Trend Micro's Q2 2013 Security Roundup Report.

The report is a quarterly analysis by Trend Micro's Threat Analysis Team that describes cyber-security threats from the previous quarter combined with analysis to evaluate and anticipate emerging attacks.

Android devices are directly in the crosshairs of hackers as threats proliferate and the user-base of the Google-owned mobile platform expands with little thought given to security, according to the report. It shows the number of malicious and high-risk Android apps has grown to 718,000 in the second quarter - a massive increase from the 509,000 high-risk apps found in the previous quarter.

These malicious apps are on track to exceed 1m by year's end, as predicted by Trend Micro in the 2013 forecast. By way of comparison, it took a decade for PC malware to amass this number.

According to Linda Barrabee, research director, Connected Intelligence at The NPD Group, only 30% of all Android smartphones and tablets in the US, have any type of security app installed today.

This fact, Trend Micro warns, combined with the Android network's systemic problems leave a large number of Android devices exposed to a risk that will continue to spread.

"Due to the fractured nature of the Android network, it is very difficult for patches to reach all users in an effective timeframe," said JD Sherry, vice president, technology and solutions, Trend Micro.

"In some cases, users will never get patches as vendors leave their customers at risk of attack. Until we have the same urgency to protect mobile devices as we have for protecting PCs, this very real threat will continue to grow rapidly.

"At the rate this malware is accelerating - almost exponentially - we appear to be reaching a critical mass. To fight this, Android users need to take great care when using their devices and take the simple, but effective, step of adding security software to all mobile devices."

Online banking

The report also warned of increasing hazards to online banking, which saw malware increasing 29% from the previous quarter - from 113,000 to 146,000 infections. The U.S. was the top target of malware, with more than 1m instances amounting to 28% of global compromises, followed by Brazil at 22% and Australia at 5%.

Malware toolkits

Adding to this onslaught of cyber-security risks, the report found that the methods for selling malware toolkits have evolved. Sophisticated malicious tools are now being sold via inexpensive, free or bundled pricing schemes, such as two-for-one packages. The ease of access to these effective malware toolkits increases the hazards Internet users will face going into the remainder of 2013 and beyond.

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