Android is the king of the hill when it comes to smartphone market share, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed to hackers and malware authors. Juniper Networks Global Threat Center has compiled a report showing that malware attacks on Android are up 400% since the summer of 2010.
According to the report, they are targeting the platform because many of its users are "unaware, disinterested, or uneducated" about security. The malware is focusing on monitoring phone calls and SMS messages made with the phone. When you think about how many people do online banking via their phone's voice capabilities or get confirmation codes via SMS to log into social networks, there is a lot of info to be gleaned from these two relatively old communication methods.
Juniper expects the attacks to gradually include "command and control zombies and botnet participators, devices that are remotely controlled to execute malicious attacks."
The quick solution is to be careful what you download. Most of the infections are caused by users unwittingly installing them as part of a downloaded app. Your best bet is to stick to apps in a reputable online store and look for those that have good ratings. That is no guarantee you'll be ok, but side-loading apps from unknown developers is asking for trouble.
Longer term the report suggests that the user run security software on their phone. The problem here though is phones aren't like PCs. By comparison, desktop computers have virtually unlimited storage space, computing power, and memory. Phone manufactures are constantly struggling to keep their phone's user interface smooth and responsive. Adding software that is constantly looking at what the phone is doing and checking it against a database of thousands of signatures may slow the phone to a crawl. At a minimum, there will be a performance hit.
If you are an Android user, have you been hit? Are you running any security software or are you considering it?