Security firm warns of increase in mobile viruses in 2013


Malware targeting Android up sixfold during Q3, with viruses possibly able to feed information from the likes of banking apps next year

Mobile security firm Trend Micro has warned the threat from viruses on smartphones will increase in 2013.

The Cambridge-based firm, which claims to be the third biggest security firm in the world behind McAfee and Norton, told Mobile News threats to smartphones, particularly those running on Android, are now similar to those on a PC.

According to the firm, malware targeting Android increased nearly sixfold in Q3 (July to September), up from around 30,000 “malicious” and potentially “dangerous” applications to more than 175,000.

Risks include espionage to gain private information from the phone, aggressive advertising which cannot be removed and spam.

The firm predicts that next year viruses will be able to feed information from the likes of banking applications, putting customers at great financial risk.

Trend Micro currently offers security for Microsoft and Apple for PCs and Macs and is seeking opportunities within mobile. Other reseller partners include the Carphone Warehouse. Packages to help protect customers on PCs, mobiles and tablets cost from £34.97.

Trend Micro’s director of security research Rik Ferguson says the challenge in the UK still lies around raising awareness, as mobile users are still unwilling to accept there is a threat to their phones.

Research by the security provider shows the UK is not in the list of the top 10 ‘victim countries’ which is headed by the US, Japan and South Korea. However, the UK is eighth in the list of leading malicious site-hosting countries.

Ferguson said: “In terms of mobile malware, what we’ve seen in 2011 and 2012 is a period of experimentation. We haven’t seen a mobile malware ‘tool kit’ as we’ve seen on PCs. But I think we will begin to see it on mobile.

“I think we will see the establishment of a leading kind of banking malware tool. And a leading kind of information theft toll, which will be commoditised and for sale on the underground market. Criminals will be adding plug-ins and additional functionality but the tool kit will be the root.”

‘Black Hole’ exploit kits, currently the biggest threat to computer security, are already collecting information on mobile operating systems, according to Ferguson.

“We will soon see the first exploit kits capable of targeting mobile devices, where your phone can be infected just by accessing a web page.

“When that happens it will be a game changer, as criminals break out of the need to go through the app store – Apple will be targeted.

“Functionally, technologically, we have got what we need from a security point of view but the places where we need to see change and advancement is from smartphone operating system manufacturers, namely Google, Apple, Microsoft and RIM, they need to make sure they partner more closely with the security industry in general to make their operating system more securable.”