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Smartphones to become major hacker target says Google expert

Android is the mobile phone operating system developed by Google.

According to Cannings, speaking at the Usenix Security Symposium in Montreal this week, hackers can already hit millions of victims with a smartphone attack.

And, predicted the Android security specialist, soon that number will be even larger.

The Android mobile operating system runs under a Linux kernel and, after being initially developed in 2007 by Google, the OS has been adopted by the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), a consortium of 48 hardware, software, and telecoms firms.

Since Google has released most of the Android code under the Apache License, a free-software and open source license, the number of mobile handset vendors releasing devices supporting the OS is expected to rise substantially in the next 12 months.

Canning's comments are in direct contrast to those of Mikko Hypponen, F-Secure's chief research officer, who told the New York Times earlier this week that the likelihood of getting hit by mobile malware is almost non-existent.

According to Hypponen, whose company writes software to detect and remove viruses from desktop and mobile devices, F-Secure's research team has discovered just 490 mobile viruses in the last five years.

In that same period, he told the paper, more than two million viruses were found for Windows computers.

Those few mobile attacks were noteworthy for the fact that they were so, well, 'juvenile', he said.

"They didn't involve hacking for financial or personal data. They were done by hobbyists and were stupid attacks to leave funny displays", he added.

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