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Android users face rise in SMS fraud apps, reckons Bitdefender

The era of mobile innocence is over

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US and UK Android users whose smartphones become infected by malware are now at an uncomfortably high risk of losing money to SMS fraud scammers, security firm Bitdefender has reported.

Money-stealing malware (which generate premium-rate SMS charges) has been one of the rising trends during 2012, with around 16 percent of US and 11 percent of UK Android malware reports now involving this kind of attack.

Across the developed world, a similar picture holds, with the equivalent statistics for France being 15 percent, Germany 9 percent and Romania (Bitdefender’s home market) 15 percent.

In the developing world, by contrast, adware (aka nuisance apps) of varying levels of aggressiveness are the larger issue, with more than half of all unwanted or malicious apps in India falling into this category.

Overall, during 2012 malware reports are now at roughly three times the level a year ago, with two families – the SMSSend and FakeInst Trojans - accounting for two thirds of that figure.

“European and North American Android users need to be wary of Android Trojans that reach for their pockets,” said Bitdefender chief security strategist, Catalin Cosoi.

“During 2013 we expect to see a rampant increase of malware, directly proportional with the number of users that acquire Android devices.”

Mobile malware is no longer the sort of topic people read about but are unlikely to experience themselves.

Most examples have been, as Bitdefender says, SMS fraud malware. UK examples trickled out during the year including an app that allegedly generated £5 ($7.50) text messages while posing as Angry Birds to get itself installed. News of the scam only emerged when large numbrs of users complained to their networks.

Only days ago came news of a more serous attack on European banking systems, the critical component of which was a Trojan designed to intercept bank authentication SMS messages. That left a clutch of the banks and their customers nursing 36 million euros in losses.

Bitdefender compiled the figures using detections on its own Android security app throughout 2012.


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