The number of unique malware varients that attack smartphones grew twenty-fold in the last year, according to a new report from technology market watchers ABI Research.
ABI’s latest Mobile Security Research report identified 17,439 unique mobile malware variants in the second quarter of 2012, up 2180% from 756 in the second quarter of last year. It determined this figure by asking anti-virus vendors how many mobile malware variants they had identified and taking an average.
The report concluded that the uptick in malware follows the growing number of infected games, social networking, productivity apps and financial tools, that are often downloaded from unofficial app stores. “A lot of people also download free apps from third party [app] stores, and there’s less scrutiny about what apps are on there which opens the door to all kinds of malware.”
According to ABI cyber security analyst Michela Menting, the mobile malware epidemic has been exascerbated by the fact that users are more laissez-faire when using smartphones than on PCs. “People think ‘this is great, I’ll open this email and go on this website’,” Menting told Information Age.
Menting says public awareness of mobile malware is currently low. That may change if there is a highly visible virus outbreak like the Windows malware epidemic of the late 1990s. “There hasn’t been a massive virus infection like there was for PCs 10 years ago,” she said. “For the next two or three years, it will be more of a corporate issue than a personal one”
ABI predicts that the mobile application security market is set to “explode” as the threat of malware grows, and will be worth $398 million by the end of 2012. “Loss, theft, spam, Trojans, spyware, data breach, and aggressive advertising are some of the few threats facing vulnerable devices,” it said.
A number of companies offer mobile security potection addressing malware, privacy and ant-theft, including AVG Technolgies, Lookout, and Avast Software. ABI predicts that there have been over 130 billion downloads of mobile security apps to date.
“The mobile application security market is rife with vendors offering their wares. The priority now for end-users is understanding the issue at hand and finding the right offering that best suits their needs,” said Menting.