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Rise in malicious mobile apps, according to survey

September 17, 2012

Downloading a game onto a mobile device may put a mobile user at risk. In a new report reaffirming the growing need for security measures on mobile devices, TrustGo found 14,000 applications with malicious malware. 

In the results of the "Summer Mobile Mayhem Report," TrustGo reported that the number of risky apps has risen 216 percent in the last three months, increasing from 11,822 to 25,580 cases of malware, according to TabTimes.

Between June and August, TrustGo scanned 1.7 million programs from 175 marketplaces to determine the number of dangerous apps. The company then ranked the security of each application into four separate categories: certified, malicious, high risk and low risk.

Locations of malicious apps
According to the survey, which focused mainly on Android smartphones, Google Play is the fifth safest app store. However, users should still be cautious, because there are over 90 malicious apps available, TrustGo's head of marketing, Jeff Becker, told TabTimes. Games are more likely to have a risky code, while social media platforms are the safest to download.

Unlike China, the United States and Europe are home to the best protected marketplaces in the world. About 33 percent of Chinese mobile applications were tested positive for malware, according to the report. The Tab Times said that because the Chinese cannot access Google Play, they are forced to obtain apps from unsafe markets that don't have the proper network security controls.

Users practice security
Mobile users are taking initiative and instituting their own security measures to prevent a malware download on their smartphones. According to a recent Pew Research study, more than 54 percent of mobile app users did not download an app after they realized it asked for certain information and permissions, and 33 percent uninstalled an app after learning the type of data being accessed.

Experts urge consumers to read positive and negative reviews, and only download apps with the highest ratings. The Federal Trade Commission has published a report that guides developers on privacy and security measures that should be integrated into every app, including telling the truth about its capabilities, honoring privacy promises, collecting sensitive information only when given consent and ensuring data protection, according to Bank Info Security. 

It's important for users to protect their mobile devices from cybercriminals as the tools become more ubiquitous and malware increases.

-McAfee Cloud Security