HONG KONG (CNN) — Security threats from mobile malware are on the rise and nearly 95% of targets operate on the Android operating system, according to a new report from NQ Mobile.
The mobile security firm, with headquarters in both the U.S. and China, estimates that nearly 33 million Android devices were targeted by malware in 2012 — a jump of more than 200% from the year prior.
“Android is one of the most powerful operating systems in the world. It allows developers to develop some of the most innovative applications out there,” said Omar Khan, Co-CEO of NQ Mobile, to CNN’s Nina dos Santos. “But because it’s so open it also gives the opportunity for bad actors in the system to take advantage of that openness to develop malicious applications as well.”
According to the NQ report, one type of malware is delivered through app repackaging in which a user downloads a mobile application that looks legitimate but is actually a harmful program.
Malware can also be downloaded through fake websites when a user clicks on a URL that appears authentic but is not.
Mobile users can also be duped through so-called “smishing” — a combination of the words SMS and phishing — where a user receives a text message asking for personal information like a credit card number, e-mail address or social security number.
And while personal information is one casualty from malicious software, personal harm could occur with new programs being developed. Earlier this month, a German hacker — and licensed commercial pilot — raised eyebrows with claims he developed an app that could remotely hijack an airplane using an Android phone.
With the increase in mobile malware, consumers need to be smarter in how they protect themselves and where they click.
Nearly 25% of malware on mobile devices comes from pornography websites, according to a recent study from Blue Coat, a Web security and optimization company.
Also, more than three of every 10 smartphone users have no password on their device according to a global survey by Web security firm McAfee. NQ’s Khan puts the number even higher — at one out of every two.
“The simplest thing we can do is put passwords on our phones. Installing security and encryption solutions (are another) way to do it. Also educating our consumers and our enterprise users not to connect and leave open wi-fi connections or Bluetooth connections — only to connect to trusted sources. A lot of times we’ll connect to anything.”
The NQ report also revealed that China, India and Russia were the top three countries with infected mobile devices.
“In the emerging markets it’s our only lifeline to the internet so hackers are finding that information more and more valuable which is why they’re going after these devices,” said Khan.