“17 percent of all Android apps (nearly one million total) are actually malware in disguise“ – according to Symantec’s latest Internet Security Threat Report.
Back in 2013, Symantec noted that 700,000 apps were infected with vulnerabilities and viruses. These extraordinary figures aren’t showing any sign of slowing down. With Symantec’s latest comprehensive security report, research shows that a third, or 2.3 million out of 6.3 million Android apps can be categorized as “grayware” or “madware” apps. While these applications do not harm your smartphone, they are particularly intrusive in the way they track user behavior for the primary purpose of advertisements.
The Threat of Madware and Grayware
Most of the malware that Symantec identified is programmed to steal users’ personal data. This includes contact lists which are then sold online. Some may even trigger the phone into sending SMS texts to premium services, leaving users with an unexpectedly hefty phone bill. Other apps bombard users with adverts and pop-ups that work in the foreground of other applications. Some madware apps are also known to change the default ringtone to an advertisement.
The security firm also revealed other interesting facts from the study.
- There are nearly a million malware infections being built per day around the world.
- From 2013 to 2014 alone, there was a 26 percent increase in the number of these infections, with 317 million harmful programs created last year alone.
There is a trend among cyber criminals with their focus increasingly toward small to mid-size businesses as more and more of these organizations are developing intellectual property. The mad race to deliver the next breakthrough app means smaller businesses and firms face a higher risk of being victims of cyber attackers.
Despite the staggering numbers, it is fairly easy to avoid these malicious apps. By downloading Android apps exclusively from the Google Play Store, the chances of being affected are minimal. This is because Google does well in vetting applications before they are listed on their official Google Play Store.
“Google does a good job of keeping malware out of the Store “, said Symantec’s Director of Security Response, Kevin Haley. “And if a malicious app does make it in there, they do a good job of finding it and getting rid of it“.
Alarm bells were sent ringing with the discovery of the first case of mobile crypto-ransomware. This is essentially software which encrypts and locks the user’s personal data until the requested ransom is paid to regain access. This kind of malware has been frequently found affecting PC users but this was the first of its kind to hit the Android platform.
Recently, the Dutch cyber-crime police teamed up with Kaspersky to develop software to unlock your encrypted files – free of charge, to thwart the efforts of cybercriminals who practice Crypto-ransomware.
Needless to say, such malware is very likely to gain popularity in the coming years. Due to these reasons and more, it is always advisable to be cautious when installing new apps.