Android users warned about increased malware attacks
- By Mark Rockwell
- Aug 27, 2013
Law enforcement agencies have warned federal, state and local authorities to keep an eye on their use of Android mobile devices as attacks on the phones' operating system increase dramatically.
An unclassified memo circulated nationwide to law enforcement, security and emergency personnel by the Homeland Security Department and the FBI in late July said threats to the Android Operating System (OS) continue to ramp up.
The memo, posted on the Public Intelligence open source website Aug. 23, said the Android OS "continues to be a primary target for malware attacks due to its market share and open source architecture."
Prepared by the DHS Office of Cyber Intelligence and Analysis, the National Protection and Programs Directorate, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team and the FBI's directorate of Intelligence, the memo noted industry reporting that showed 44 percent of Android users are still using the 2011 "Gingerbread" versions of the OS (2.3.3 through 2.3.7). Those versions, it said, have a number of security vulnerabilities that were fixed in later Android iterations.
"The growing use of mobile devices by federal, state and local authorities makes it more important than ever to keep mobile OS patched and up-to-date," said the memo.
Trojan files delivered via SMS text messages, it said, represent almost half the malicious applications circulating on older Android OS. The Trojan malware can force mobile devices to send text messages to sites that rack up exorbitant charges for the user. It also warned Rootkit malware can secretively log users' keystrokes and passwords, while fake Google play domains can steal users' sensitive data.
The memo said some of the problems could be mitigated using security suites either purchased or downloaded for free. It also recommended using only approved applications and following IT department procedures to update device security.
TrendLabs' 2Q 2013 Security Roundup, released in July, showed malware attacks on Android OS are rising. The number of malicious and high-risk Android apps grew to 718,000 in the second quarter -- up significantly from the 509,000 high-risk apps it noted in the first quarter, according to the study. "In just six months, these apps surged by more than 350,000 -- a number that originally took them three years to reach."
Mark Rockwell is a staff writer covering acquisition, procurement and homeland security. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.