Android malware: Threat or FUD?

Android faces an exponential growth in mobile malware, according to researchers, with a 472-percent increase in rogue Android Market apps since July 2011. Increasingly complex apps are taking advantage of loopholes in the Android platform's security to gain root access and grab user-data, Juniper Networks claims, going on to send premium-rate messages unknown to the user or share data covertly with remote hackers. However, while those apps are supposedly proliferating in the Market, it's unclear how many users are actually impacted.

With low-level access, Juniper suggests, malware can begin sending out SMS messages without the user realizing it. Those messages are targeted at premium rate services, with the malware authors making money on each received. If the user doesn't carefully check their bill each month, they may not notice the cash being sucked out of their account.

Spyware, though, still makes up the majority of attacks, according to Juniper's figures. In those cases, the malware – presented as a legitimate app in the Android Market – leverages known loopholes in Android to proliferate through the system and gather up as much personal data as possible, transmitting that back to the authors without the user's consent or awareness.

The unchecked wildness that is the Android Market is blamed for the growing number of malware apps found, the security company claims, citing Apple's App Store checking policies rather than any inherent advantage in iOS resilience for the reason that the iPhone isn't subject to the same problems. Nonetheless, while Juniper is seemingly convinced that Android is a seething hotbed of malware and hackers desperate to yank your credit card details out from under you, we're having trouble actually finding someone affected. Have you been a victim of Android malware? Let us know in the comments.