Symbian malware disappearing, Android malware surges: F-Secure report

  • Android malware responsible for 79% of all threats in 2012, up from 66% in 2011
  • Symbian malware down to 19% of all mobile malware in 2012, down from 29% in 2011

Symbian malware disappearing, Android malware surges: F-Secure reportTHE latest Mobile Threat Report from security specialist F-Secure shows a drop in malware targeting the declining Symbian platform while Android malware continued to rise and was responsible for 79% of all threats for the year, up from 66% in 2011.
 
In what may be the only good news for Symbian, Symbian malware made up just 4% of all mobile threats detected in the fourth quarter of 2012, down from an average of 26% in the first three quarters. Malware targeting Symbian was down to 19% of all mobile malware for the year 2012, down from 29% in 2011.
 
The numbers are starkly reversed from 2010, when Symbian malware accounted for 62% of threats and Android just 11%, the company said in a statement (click chart to enlarge).
 
“Malware in general has a parasitic relationship with its host,” said Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure Labs.
 
“As old Symbian handsets continue to be replaced by those with other operating systems, especially Android, Symbian malware dies off and will probably go extinct in 2013,” he added. “May it rest in peace.”
 
F-Secure said that 301 total new threat families and variants were detected in 2012.
 
The Mobile Threat Report, released March 7, noted that 66% of mobile malware detections in 2012 were trojans, a number expected to drop in the coming year with Google’s release of Android 4.2 Jellybean late last year.
 
The extra security prompts when downloading in 4.2 should help deflect trojans, and as spying and monitoring tools increasingly become part of the mix, surveillance-related threats will account for a greater portion, Sullivan said.
 
A large share of the Android threats found in Q4 was malware that generate profit through fraudulent SMS practices. Also, 21 of the 96 Android threat variants found were contributed by Premium SMS, a malware family that sends out messages to premium rate numbers.
 
Many more Android threats employ similar tactics, some signing up the victim to an SMS-based subscription service. Messages or notifications from these numbers and services are deleted, keeping the user unaware until charges appear on their bills.
 
The rise of Android malware can be largely attributed to the operating system’s increasing foothold in the mobile market. Android’s market share rose to 68.8% in 2012, compared with 49.2% in 20112, F-Secure said.
 
Symbian on the other hand, is suffering from the opposite fate. In 2012, it only held 3.3% market share which is a huge drop from 16.5% the year before. Nokia’s decision to halt all Symbian development in February 2012 may have contributed to the huge drop in numbers. As its market share declines, so does malware authors’ interest in the platform.
 
As for the other platforms, i.e., Blackberry, iOS, Windows Phone/ Mobile, they may see some threats popping up once in a while. But most likely, the threats are intended for multiple platforms similar to the case of FinSpy4.
 
To download the Mobile Threat Report, click here or go here for this and other F-Secure reports and white papers.
 
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As mobile usage grows, so should security: IDC

Mobile and Android malware threats continue to rise
 

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