Bogdan Botezatu, a senior e-threat analyst at antivirus vendor Bitdefender, believes that the Android malware threats are not only increasing in number, but are also becoming more diversified. "Mobile malware has developed in a way that is extremely similar to the malware for Windows operating systems," he said Friday via email. "In the past years, we saw notable developments in the Android e-threat landscape: adware becoming more aggressive, increased number of premium-rate SMS senders and the emergence of SMS interceptor Trojans aimed at mobile banking fraud."
Skeptics are correct that most Android malware is found on third-party application stores or on shady websites that offer cracked, unrestricted versions of popular paid applications, Botezatu said. It's also true that such third-party apps sources are more popular in countries like Russia or China. "But let's not forget that China has the fastest-growing Android market in the world at the moment, so we are talking about a huge number of Android users who may fall victim to malware delivered via third-party stores," he said.
When talking about Android threats there's some confusion generated by the lack of a clear-cut distinction between adware, aggressive adware, spyware and malware, Botezatu said. The fastest growing number of Android threats are aggressive-ad-supported apps, but there has also been a significant spike in the development of Android Trojan programs and monitors, a category of applications that track users' behavior and geographical position, he said.
"Bottom line: Android malware is here to stay," Botezatu said. "Since more and more users turn to Android for day-to-day operations, cybercriminals have plethora of reasons to invest in the research and development of mobile-borne threats. Android malware is already in a point where it can inflict real damage to users: banker Trojans, mobile espionage and privacy invasion are only a few of the threats that we deal with on a daily basis. And with mobile devices becoming payment mechanisms -- payment via premium-rate SMS or by tapping into the associated Google Wallet account-- the next generations of Android threats will become even more dangerous."