Whilst Android continues to be the dominant platform for smartphones, being number one does make the system a main target for cyber criminals, particularly given the open source nature of the OS.
A recent report by mobile security firm F-Secure suggests that of all malware threats found, an amazing 97% are targeting the Google backed mobile operating system.
During the third quarter of this year, F-Secure detected 259 threats and variants for mobile phones, of which 252 were aimed at Android. The remaining 7 were found to be attacking Symbian, which is still found on many handsets particularly in developing markets, even though new handsets are no longer being produced. None of the threats found were reported to be a problem for BlackBerry, Windows Phone or iOS.
The largest threat amongst all those discovered were Trojans, which accounted for more than 90% of problems, and these were found to be mainly targeting mobile banking apps. These Trojans were usually SMSSpy, which aim to intercept messages sent from banks to their customers, as a way of authenticating the user. F-Secure said that one of the main problems with this type of Trojan is the fact that it doesn't have a single identifiable code source, which makes it that much harder to track.
Another type of threat found is called PUA, which stands for Potentially Unwanted Applications. PUA's are apps which include additional, unwanted features, which are installed along with a standard app. PUA's cause a major problem for users, as they can inadvertently bring security risks to users.
Another ongoing threat is Trojans that aim to send text messages from the handset silently, running in the background without the user being aware. One way to protect against this is to make sure your operator premium call bar is in place. It would mean not being able to access many competition lines from your mobile, but will add in an additional layer of protection, even if malware of this type did become installed on your phone.
To protect your device, F-Secure recommend the usual number of practises that most smartphone users should follow as standard; i.e. only install apps that have been downloaded from recognised sources, such as the Google Play Store or Amazon App Store, check the permissions requested by the app before installation and if in doubt, don't install. Also, keep an up-to-date anti-virus program on your handset, that can scan apps for any hidden malware as they are installed.