Android malware is on the rise. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Android’s very rapid evolution and its booming success over the past couple of years have unfortunately brought the mobile OS a major hassle in the form of security vulnerabilities. The Android malware issue has been reported as increasing not only in quantity, but also in danger level in the last months, with malicious apps being more aggressive and dangerous than ever.

Google’s active efforts to fight the ever-increasing threats have themselves grown lately, but even with the introduction of the new “Bouncer” system and the supposedly “significantly improved Jelly Bean security,” nothing seems to be able to stop viruses and Trojans from spreading around.

The latest Kaspersky Lab report about Android malware is again sounding the alarm, as if the company’s warning over ZitMo attacks from last week wasn’t enough. According to the Moscow-based security firm, the number of new malicious programs targeting the Android platform has almost tripled during the second fiscal quarter of 2012.

After reporting 5,441 malware apps back in Q1 2012, Kaspersky engineers have found no less than 14,923 such malicious programs between the months of April and June. Comparing the number with similar figures from last year, things seem even more problematic, considering that in Q2 2011 there were only 936 malicious apps targeting Android, while over the following three months Kaspersky tracked 3,658 such programs.

Almost half of the malicious files found over Q2 2012 were “multi-functional Trojans” programmed to steal data from phones, such as contact names, email addresses and telephone numbers, but also capable of downloading additional modules from servers run by malicious users.

SMS Trojans came up in second in Kaspersky’s report, holding a “market share” of around 25% over the year’s second fiscal quarter. These programs are even more dangerous than the multi-functional Trojans, as they target stealing money from victims’ accounts by “sending SMS messages to premium-rate numbers without the owner’s knowledge or consent.”

An even bigger threat is posed by the malware apps that came up in third, representing 18% of the total Android malicious programs detected. These are “backdoors” that allow unauthorized people full access to an infected device. I’m sure you can imagine what can someone do to your phone by gaining full control of it, so I’m not going to get into details.

Finally, 2% of the total Android malware files were Trojan Spy programs, absolutely the most dangerous kind of malicious threats that currently exist. These can easily gain access to the most sensitive data one can enter on a phone, including bank account numbers, credit card codes and PIN numbers.

Scared much? Well, you should probably be, especially that Kaspersky Senior Malware Analyst Yuri Namestnikov wrapped up the report by saying that warning against a shift to more personal attacks.

In the near future, we expect not only more malware, but more effective and dangerous malware targeting Android. Judging from existing trends, we should expect that cybercriminals will soon shift to more personalized attacks. This is primarily about malware hunting for confidential data with which to steal money from users’ credit cards.

So we don’t end our post in a completely dark note, we should mention that a similar report from F-Secure, cited by PC World, has found some significantly different results than the one compiled by Kaspersky. According to the Finland-based anti-virus and security company, only 40 new malicious Android application package files were tracked during Q2 2012. This was still a 64 percent increase over the company’s previous quarter’s report, but that certainly doesn’t sound as severe as the tripling in malicious apps reported by Kaspersky.

No matter which one of the two reports is closer to reality, one thing is certain nevertheless. Android is a more and more appealing target for malware attacks, which is why you should take all precautionary methods possible to protect your devices from getting infected. I hope that you all know by now how to do that, but if you need some additional help, check out our lists of best antivirus apps and best apps for privacy protection.