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Android attracts most malware in 2012

Android attracts most malware in 2012

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Struggling Symbian loses favour with malware as Android threats continues upward trend

In what may be the only good news for dying operating system Symbian, F-Secure's latest Mobile Threat Report shows a drop in malware targeting the declining platform over 2012, while threats targeting the Android platform are continuing to rise.

Symbian received just 4% of all mobile threats detected in the fourth quarter of 2012, down from an average of 26% in the first three quarters. Malware targeting Symbian was down to 19% of all mobile malware for the year 2012, down from 29% in 2011.

Altogether, 301 total new threat families and variants were detected in 2012 by F-Secure Lab's new Mobile Threat Report Q4 2012. Android malware continued to gain in its share, responsible for 79% of all threats for the year, up from 66% in 2011. The numbers are starkly reversed from 2010, when Symbian malware accounted for 62% of threats and Android just 11%.

'Malware in general has a parasitic relationship with its host,' says Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure Labs. 'As old Symbian handsets continue to be replaced by those with other operating systems, especially Android, Symbian malware dies off and will probably go extinct in 2013. May it rest in peace.'

The report showed that 66% of mobile malware detections in 2012 were trojans, a number Sullivan expects to drop in the coming year with Google's release of Android 4.2 Jellybean late last year.

The extra security prompts when downloading in Android 4.2 should help deflect trojans, and as spying and monitoring tools increasingly become part of the mix, surveillance-related threats will account for a greater portion, he said.

A large share of the Android threats found in the fourth quarter were malware that generate profit through fraudulent SMS practices. Around one quarter (21) of the 96 Android threat variants found were contributed by Premium SMS, a malware family that sends out messages to premium rate numbers.

Many more Android threats employ similar tactics, some signing up the victim to an SMS-based subscription service. Messages or notifications from these numbers and services are deleted, keeping the user unaware until charges appear on their bills.

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