A nearly sixfold increase in security threats such as spyware and viruses has been reported in the Android operating system since July, according to sources at Juniper Networks.  Most of these threats can be traced back to third-party applications that are not sold on Google’s Android Market, says a Bloomberg report.

“The open nature of the Android system makes it more susceptible to attack,” Dan Hoffman of Juniper said in an interview. “If it’s on a third-party site, Google can’t remove it.”

“It’s possible to find an infected ‘Angry Birds’ game available for download right next to a legitimate one,” said Danielle Hamel, a spokeswoman at Juniper.

These “trick” apps are designed to look and work like the real apps, and once installed on your Android device, they could steal your private information by communicating with other parts of the phone or tablet.

Surge in Security Threats

The 427% increase in incidents of security threats since July can be attributed to third-party sites like mmoovv.com and samsunggalaxy-s.ru that are becoming more popular since they allow users to download cheaper versions of apps or they offer an app source for users that isn’t banned in some places like China.

Infiltrating Android’s security barriers is easier for malware and viruses, since the apps aren’t checked and can be sold on a host of external sites. An open source code adds to the vulnerability. The same security threats are not as prevalent on Apple devices, since Apple checks each app on the App store and controls sale and distribution of these apps. Because of this, beliefs that Apple devices are safer and more secure than Android devices may be strengthened, according to Juniper.

Opensource: Double-edged Sword

But, there are benefits to having an operating system that’s open to everyone. For one, vulnerabilities in open source software can easily be explored and then steps for improvement can be gleaned from such, causing it to become more secure in the long run.

“An open model tends to allow a flurry of vulnerabilities, very quickly, that tend to stop being a problem as more people find them,” Edward Amoroso, Chief Security Officer for AT&T, said in an interview. “A closed system will have longer, more sustained, but more predictable and controllable set of vulnerabilities.”

Consumers are not left blind-sided and exposed to risk, however. Hundreds of security applications are available for download on the Android Market, including Lookout Security & Antivirus. Key players in the tech industry such as IBM and Symantec Corp. are also eyeing setting foot in the business of providing protection to smartphone users, as more and more computing activity is done while mobile.

To stress the importance of keeping your guard app against these malicious apps, Latha Maripuri, director of security services at IBM , says. “Applications can do anything. They can access your bank account through the data that you may have stored on your e-mail. They can access whatever company data you’ve uploaded. We’ve really seen a rise in threats and we expect this to grow.”

If not from the Android Market, where do you get your Android apps from?  Are you 101% certain that those third-party app sources are reliable?