The Android operating system accounted for 79 percent of all mobile malware threats in 2012, compared to Apple's iOS, which is targeted less than 1 percent of the time.
These findings were released Tuesday in an internal memo obtained by Public Intelligence from the US Department of Homeland Security and US Department of Justice. Pulling on data from 2012, the report finds that 0.7 percent of attacks were designed for iOS, 19 percent for the now defunct Symbian OS, 0.3 percent for Windows Phone, and 0.3 percent for BlackBerry. Android blew the rest away at 79 percent.
The US government is speaking up about malware as a way to caution its employees about the threats they might be bringing into the office. Local, state, and even federal government offices have been affected by the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend as well, opening them up to threats as Android has grown in popularity.
The government agencies recommended that Android users install security software, as well as regularly update the OS to take advantage of security patches. Interestingly, they also recommend installing Carrier IQ Inc. 's surveillance app. It's the same app that came under fire last year when consumers discovered it could track their location and actions on their smartphones. (See Carrier IQ: We Don't Record Keystrokes.)
Why this matters
Android's open-source software has long made it a prime target for cyber-criminals, something security firms have been warning about for years. The fact that the government is getting involved, however, suggests the problem hasn't gone away.
Often the malware is unknowingly allowed by users who click the wrong link, download a nefarious app, stick with an older version of the OS, or jailbreak their handset. The government agencies' suggestions are a baseline of what mobile users should do to protect themselves. Mobile security is also emerging as a field for wireless operators and vendors that want to better protect, and monetize, their customers.
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— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading