A new report by Trend Micro paints a worrying picture about the number of malicious Android apps in existence. According to the report, which was created by Trend Micro’s TrendLabs threat response team, there were just 5,000 malicious Android apps in circulation during the first three months of 2012. However that number has quadrupled between April and June to 20,000.
The vast majory of these apps reside in unreliable third party stores. However, Trend also discovered that 17 apps did manage to get into Google Play and were downloaded over 700,000 times before they were removed.
Around 30% of the malicious apps found disguise themselves as highly popular legitimate apps. The unsuspecting user downloads the app, which looks genuine, only to find that it contains malware. The intent of such malware is to make money for their creators by tricking the victim's into using premium rate services (sometimes unknowingly) or viewing mobile ads, stealing personal and private data, or even turning their phones into part of a botnet. The greatest risk comes from sites which offer paid-for apps as free. Greedy users download the apps thinking they have found a bargain but in fact it can, in the long run, cost them much more than the few dollars the original version would have cost.
Of the apps which made it into Google Play, Trend Micro spotted two - Spy Tool and Spy Phone PRO+ – which allowed hackers to spy on victims by watching the GPS signal on the phone and reading any text messages.
Trend has also published a worrying, doomsday type prediction. It reckons that by the end of 2012 there will be more than 129,000 malicious Android Apps in existence.
As always, users need to be vigilant. Be careful what you download and from where you download it. You should also consider installing an anti-malware app on your Android device.