Mobile malware up 2,180% in 2012

Games, music, social networking, productivity apps and financial tools are all becoming common on the mobile platform, opening the door to data loss, theft, spam, trojans, spyware, data breaches and aggressive advertising. In fact, between Q1 2011 and Q2 2012, ABI Research found that unique malware variants grew by a staggering 2,180%, reaching 17,439 total strains.

"With the increasing popularity of smartphones, mobile threats are on the rise,” said Michela Menting, senior cyber security analyst at ABI. “This has implications for security at the corporate level, as well as for individual privacy."

Accordingly, investment in security is on the rise too. To date, ABI calculates that there have been over 130 billion downloads of mobile security apps. In fact, the firm shows that the global market for mobile application security will be worth $398 million by the end of 2012. That includes revenues for paid apps, partnerships with manufacturers and operators, white label deals, and dataset sales.

The problem, of course, is that the mobile application security market is rife with vendors offering their wares – so the priority now is for end users to understand the issue at hand and finding the right offering that best suits their needs, Menting added. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) concurs that user awareness is a big issue. A lack of readiness and protection has meant that mobile malware instances have increased 185% in less than a year, rising from 14,000 to 40,000.

Helpfully, ABI has identified a few options, it says, that stand out when it comes to application security. “AVG Technologies, Lookout, and Avast Software offer well-rounded software that address malware, privacy and anti-theft concerns", said Menting. “With regards to innovation, Lookout, Dr.Web and TrustGo stand out among other vendors. As for implementation, McAfee, Kaspersky Lab and Ikarus have exceled in deploying viable long-term strategies.”

ABI’s vendor-neutral look at the market dovetails with security-firm data when it comes to exponential growth in malware. Analysts at G Data SecurityLabs for instance say that the anti-virus industry developed 1,381,967 new virus signatures to detect and block all (mobile and otherwise) malware in the first half of this year. However, they also said that they think the growth of malicious programs will completely stabilize soon, with the industry seeing the aforementioned 2.5 to 3 million new threats every year from now on.

Nevertheless, as user awareness does get better, malware quality will triumph over quantity. “It has to, because people are understanding the online dangers better and are getting more cautious every day,” said Eddy Willems, security evangelist at G Data. “In order to be successful as a malware writer, more time and thought needs to be put into creating even more deceitful and convincing schemes. And we, as part of the AV industry, have our work cut out for us.”

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