Trend Micro shines light on growing number of malicious Android apps

Android phone users should tread carefully when downloading apps, as figures suggest the number of malicious apps for the platform will hit the one million mark this year.

According to figures from security vendor Trend Micro, the first six months of 2013 saw a surge in the number of malicious Android apps, as hackers continue to set their sights on Google's increasingly popular mobile operating system.

It is very difficult for patches to reach all users in an effective timeframe.

Its figures suggest the number of malicious Android apps has increased by 350,000 during the first half of 2013, and now totals 718,000.

In light of this, the security firm said it expects there to be more than a million malicious Android apps before the end of the year.

"Malware has even been found on the official Google Play store, making security software no longer a nice-to-have for Android handset owners, but an increasingly essential tool to prevent malicious downloads," said Trend Micro in a statement.

JD Sherry, vice president of technology and solutions at Trend Micro, said the fractured nature of the Android ecosystem makes it hard for users to protect themselves from threats.

"It is very difficult for patches to reach all users in an effective timeframe. In some cases, users will never get the patches as vendors leave their customers at risk of attack," claimed Sherry.

"Until we have the same urgency to protect mobile devices as we have to protecting PCs, this very real threat will continue to grow rapidly.

"At the rate this malware is accelerating almost exponentially we appear to be reaching a critical mass," Sherry added.

As well as mobile threats, the company's Q2 Threat Report also flagged a marked rise in online banking malware, from 113,000 infections to 146,000, as well as an increased prevalence of malicious toolkits being traded on the black market.

Many of these are being offered online free of charge or as part of a two-for-one deal, the company claims.

"Making toolkits more affordable in this way will increasingly democratise the means to launch attacks and cause havoc for internet users and businesses," the company claimed.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.