A new statistic underscores the real mobile security problem today: Only 4 percent of Android users are running the latest version of the mobile OS, which can mitigate some 77 percent of all existing Android malware threats.
Mobile malware, meanwhile, grew 614 percent between March 2012 and 2013, according to Juniper Networks' annual Mobile Threats Report. Google's data shows that as of June 3, 4 percent of all Android users were running the newest version of the operating system, according to the report.
"Google could learn from the Microsoft model. User experience would want [upgrades] -- they want new features, which will drive some to" demand up-to-date Android platforms, says Michael Callahan, vice president of global security product marketing at Juniper Networks.
But an even bigger incentive will be when they start getting hit with SMS texting scams that charge them for messages they didn't send, he says. "They will start to see in their phone bill [the illicit charges] ... and go back to their providers and say, 'You need to pay for that,'" Callahan says. That will then pressure providers to cooperate with the handset manufacturers to keep the Android models updated regularly, he says.
Privacy researcher and activist Chris Soghoian earlier this year pointed out how many mobile carriers are not properly protecting their customers because they don't support or enforce Android updates across the board on the smartphones. Some phones just don't get the latest Android OS version because they're being phased out or are older models.
"You don't need an zero-day to attack most Android devices if consumers are running 13-month-old software," Soghoian said in a presentation at the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit in February.
According to the Juniper report, the latest Android OS offers defense mitigation against the most common Android malware, which accounts for 77 percent of the threats to the smartphone platform.
There are currently 276,259 malicious mobile apps, and more than 90 percent of all mobile threats target the popular Android platform. Nearly 70 percent of smartphones shipped in 2012 were Androids, according to analysis firm Canalys, and that number is expected to grow to 1 billion by 2017.
With popularity comes cybercrime: Overall, malware for the Android grew from 24 percent of all mobile malware in 2010 to 92 percent as of March of this year, Juniper says.
"As I expected, the percentage of malware increased for the Android. But to jump so high [in one year] -- I didn't expect that. Forty-seven to 92 percent is a huge increase: It almost doubled from one year to the next," Callahan says.
Nearly 75 percent of all known malware are SMS Trojans/FakeInstallers that trick users into sending SMS message to premium-rate numbers. Such an attack can make the bad guys $10 a message.
The full mobile threat report by Juniper is available here for download.
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