Security Experts:

95 Percent of Mobile Threats in 2012 Targeted Android, Says NQ Mobile

According to a new report released this week by mobile security firm NQ Mobile, nearly 95 percent of all mobile malware discovered throughout 2012 targeted the Google’s Android operating system.

Overall, NQ Mobile said that it also saw number of mobile malware threats jump 163% to more than 65,000 in 2012.

While the rise in mobile malware is nothing new, nor is the fact that most mobile threats have targeted Android, NQ Mobile is warning that mobile threats are becoming more complex as they target connected devices.

Earlier this year, a new form of mobile malware was discovered that when connected to a PC uses the device’s USB connection to deliver a number of payloads, including keylogging or remote access.

According to the firm’s data, the top three methods for delivering mobile malware in 2012 were app repackaging, malicious URLs, and smishing. NQ’s numbers show that an estimated 32.8 million Android devices were infected with malware in 2012 -- an increase of over 200 percent from 2011.

NQ Mobile researchers also explained how cybercriminals are using mobile malware to capture consumers' private information, which is then sold to other cybercriminals who could eventually use it to gain access to the victims’ bank accounts.

"The security industry's 'discover-first-and-inoculate-second' strategy is no longer enough," said Omar Khan, Co-CEO, NQ Mobile. "We need smarter systems that can discover threats before they infect consumers as well as more education so consumers can better spot and avoid these new mobile scams."

Other Key Findings include:

• The top five markets for infected mobile devices were China (25.5%), India (19.4%), Russia(17.9%), United States (9.8%) and Saudi Arabia (9.6%)

• 65% of malware discovered in 2012 falls into a broader category of Potentially Unwanted Programs (or PUPs). PUPs include root exploits, spyware, pervasive adware and Trojans (surveillance hacks)

• 28% of mobile malware discovered in 2012 was designed to collect and profit from a user's personal data

• 7% of malware was simply designed to make a user's device stop working (i.e., "bricking" their phones)

• NQ Mobile estimated that over 10 million devices have already been infected in the first quarter of 2013

NQ Mobile gets its data its global malware database, scanning engines and its network of hundreds of millions of registered users.

NQ Mobile's 2012 Mobile Security Report is available here.

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For more than 10 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring the threat landscape and analyzing trends in the National Security and enterprise cybersecurity space. In his role at SecurityWeek, he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and is the Director of several leading security industry conferences around the world.