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Majority of mobile malware on Android phones, security firm says

A model of the Android operating system logo stands on display at the company's booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

Nearly 80 percent of all mobile malware found in 2012 was written for phones running Google’s mobile Android operating system, according to a report from security firm F-Secure.

Android is the world’s most popular smartphone platform — with nearly 70 percent of the market, according to numbers posted in January by Strategy Analytics.

But it appears to be even more popular with those writing malicious programs, with 79 percent of all mobile malware in 2012 targeting Android phones. In the fourth quarter of 2012 alone, 96 percent of all mobile malware was written for the platform.

F-Secure said that the jump in Android malware can be “largely attributed to the operating system’s increasing foothold” in the smartphone market.

Mobile malware attacks are on the rise overall, the report said, with over 300 families and variants of malicious programs identified. This year’s report was also the first time that threats to Apple’s iOS software appeared on the report, with 0.7 percent. The year 2012 also marked the first year that BlackBerry threats appeared on the radar, though also with a very low 0.3 percent.

Malicious apps, monitoring programs and programs that collect extra data without disclosing it all appeared on phones in 2012, often by posing as legitimate applications. In some cases, the report said, malware also duplicates the authentication numbers mobile phones use to validate online banking transactions, which means that banks have a difficult time recognizing fraudulent transactions.

Nokia’s Symbian platform was the second-most targeted, making up 19 percent of threats logged by the firm last year, though threats have been dropping off as fewer consumers use the platform.

Related stories:

‘Fragmentation’ leaves Android phones vulnerable to hackers, scammers

Google Play celebrates its first birthday

Politicians, privacy advocates weigh in on cybersecurity exec order

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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