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Android phones are top targets for malware. Here’s how to protect yourself

Android phones are top targets for malware. Here’s how to protect yourself
© Stuart Patterson | Dreamstime.com

According to a report from Strategy Analytics for the third quarter of 2016, Google's Android mobile operating system now holds 87.5 percent of the global market share of smartphones. This means that globally, nine in 10 smartphones are running various versions of Android.

Impressive figures indeed due to the sheer volume of Android handsets circulating around the world. Unfortunately, due to this massive popularity, Android is also a common target for malware, viruses, trojans and all that fun stuff cybercriminals are known for.

A new report from Nokia confirms what we have known all along - Android smartphones are increasingly targeted with mobile malware and the attacks are spreading fast.

Nokia's report reveals these key points:

  • Mobile device infection rates rose steadily throughout 2016
  • The infections grew 63 percent in July through December over the first half of 2016
  • Infections reached an all-time high in October 2016 at 1.35 percent of all mobile gadgets
  • 81 percent of primary targets are Android gadgets (phones and tablets)
  • Smartphone malware attacks rose nearly 400 percent over 2015
  • Fewer attacks targeted iPhones - a mere 4 percent of all mobile attacks
  • iPhone attacks were mostly of the spyware variety

Nokia also mentioned the rise of vulnerabilities in Internet Of Things devices, which led to the Dyn denial-of-service (DDoS) attack of last year.

Android under attack

Nokia's report that Android gadgets are top malware targets is in line with another security firm's forecast for 2016.

SophosLabs revealed during the RSA Conference in February of this year that their systems have processed more than 8.5 million suspicious apps in 2016. Half of these were either malware, unwanted applications, and adware.

The top Android malware families detected by SophosLabs are as follows:

  • Andr/PornClk, an ad clicker - 20 percent
  • Andr/CNSMS, an SMS sender - 13 percent
  • Andr/DroidRT, an Android rootkit - 10 percent
  • Andr/SmsSend, another SMS sender - 8 percent

Other Android security issues mentioned include earlier flaws we reported about, including the Pattern Lock cracking vulnerability from the use of cameras and computer vision algorithm software.

Protect yourself from Android malware

Android security risks are growing each day so it's vital that Android owners are taking proactive measures to protect themselves:

  • Avoid third-party app stores - If you are going to download apps, get them from official app stores like Google Play or Apple's App Store. These official app stores have security measures in place that stop malicious apps from being available. In almost every case, a malicious app will come from a third-party.
  • Back up data regularly - this could be the best way to recover your critical data if you are infected.
  • Make sure your backups are secure - do not connect your backups to computers or networks that they are backing up.
  • Never open risky links in emails - don't open attachments from unsolicited emails.
  • Have strong security software - This will help prevent the installation of ransomware on your gadget. Make sure you are keeping your security software up to date, as these updates protect against newly discovered threats.
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