Android malware "out of control," says Fortinet

The increase in the amount of malware surging through the Internet shows no sign of abating.

According to the latest assessment, Fortinet Inc.’s annual mid-year report on online threats, malware written for mobile devices is closing in to the amount of created for desktop and laptop PCs.

“Mobile malware has taken off through the stratosphere,” said report author Richard Henderson of Fortinet Labs.

In particular, Android malware is “out of control.” he said.

At the beginning of the year Fortinet was tracking 1,000 new Android malware samples a day. Now it is seeing 1,300 a day, categorized within 300 unique families — in other words, the new malware isn’t just a varient of one type.

There are still millions of samples of PC malware, but as the number of mobile devices begins to encroach on the number of PCs, so will malware authors turn their attention to new platforms.

What’s particularly worrisome is that “ransomware” — viruses that lock a phone until the user pays for its release by purchasing so-called anti-virus protection — was discovered in June for Android platform.

Typically the user gets suckered by clicking on a link to buy what appears to be a legitimate anti-virus solution.

Users can refuse to make the payment and reset or wipe the device, but that means losing all data — unless the user has made a recent backup.

Fortunately, Richardson says, many devices automatically backup data when synchronized with the owners’ PC. That lessens the threat, if backup is enabled and if it has been done recently.

However, one version also searches for key files on the phone and erases them, in the hopes of preventing restoration of the phone from a backup file.

The lesson is that like PC users, people with mobile devices have to be careful before they download anything.

If you have an Android device only download applications from the Google Play store.

Finally, the report notes that that the cybercriminals behind the ZeroAccess botnet are “making great strides (and spending a significant amount of money)” maintaining the size of their botnet.

One version of ZeroAccess is used for online ad click fraud, while another for bitcoins.

In April Fortinet Labs found 100,000 new infections on average per week, a pace that hasn’t slowed, the report said. Fortinet believes the people behind the botnet are spending US $35,000 to $40,000 a week to pay their affiliates to generate infections. “they must be pulling in some decent money” to be able to spend that, said Richardson.
Fortinet makes advanced threat protection software and appliances.
(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story wrongly said Fortinet is now seeing 13,000 new Android malware samples a day)

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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