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Thursday, March 07, 2013, 10:33 am PT (01:33 pm ET)

Apple marketing chief uses rare Twitter post to take shot at Android security issues

Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller made a rare appearance on Twitter on Thursday to ding the security situation on Google's Android mobile operating system, linking to a report showing that Android malware threats are on the rise.

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Schiller took to Twitter on Thursday for just the 172nd time since opening his account in 2008, linking to F-Secure's Mobile Threat Report Q4 2012. Aside from providing the link, Schiller said only "Be safe out there."

The report looks at the risks for the assorted mobile platforms in the fourth quarter of last year, finding that 96 new families and variants of malware were discovered in the fourth quarter alone. Of these 21 threats were based on PremiumSMS, which sends out SMS messages to premium rate numbers or signs victims up to SMS-based subscription services.

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Others operate through banking trojans, stealing users' mobile Transaction Authentication Numbers in order to transfer money from their accounts without their knowledge. One such malware, known as Eurograbber, took $47 million from over 30,000 retail and corporate accounts in Europe. That version, though, first installed itself on users' computers before tricking them into loading it onto their mobile devices.

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The report attributes the rise in Android malware to the OS' increasing market share. The most recent market analyses peg Android at 70 percent of the global smartphone market. That leap in market share corresponds strongly with an increase in malware for the platform. Android malware now accounts for 79 percent of the 301 total families and variants discussed in the report. Similarly, the decline in market share of Nokia's Symbian platform has coincided with a drop in the number of new malware variants discovered for it.

Apple's iOS, despite accounting for 22 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide, is apparently nowhere near as vulnerable as Android. While it is vulnerable to the occasional multiplatform threat, iOS-targeted threats accounted for only 0.7 percent of 2012 malware threats. The report found only two profit-motivated threats to the iOS platform in 2012, just one more than either BlackBerry or Windows Mobile.