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Android accounts for 92% of mobile malware, malicious apps increase 614%

A new study on smartphone malware has found that 92 percent of nefarious mobile software is targeted at Google's Android platform, and the amount of attacks are growing.

The latest data released on Wednesday by Juniper Networks reveals that Android malware has grown at a "staggering rate" over the last three years. In 2010, it accounted for just 24 percent of all mobile malware, while as of this March the platform accounts for nearly all of it.

In the last year alone, the total number of malicious apps has grown 614 percent to 276,259. The annual Mobile Threats support also identified more than 500 third-party Android application stores worldwide that are known to host mobile malware.

Of the malicious apps tracked by Juniper, three out of five emanated from either China or Russia.Most Android malware could be avoided if users were running the latest operating system, but Juniper's data says only 4 percent of users are.

Almost three-fourths of mobile malware turn a profit by tricking users into sending text messages to premium-rate numbers owned by attackers. Juniper estimates that each successful smartphone attack can net about $10 in immediate profit.

Juniper also estimates that 77 percent of current Android threats could be eliminated if users were running the latest version of the platform. However, currently only 4 percent of Android devices are running the latest operating system.

"With mobile malware on the rise and attackers becoming increasingly clever, we need better protection for mobile users and corporations," said Michael Callahan, vice president of global product marketing at Juniper Networks. "While on one hand the OEMs, carriers and software vendors must collaborate to develop platforms that mitigate large threats, enterprises and government organizations need to take a comprehensive look at protecting their data and networks by adopting a holistic approach to mobile security."

Apple has frequently highlighted the security of its iOS platform and contrasted it with the presence of malware on Google's competing Android mobile operating system. During his company's most recent quarterly earnings report, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer cited a study by McAfee Labs that found 97 percent of mobile malware was on the Android platform, while the remainder was primarily on Nokia Symbian and Java ME.

Juniper's latest figures correlate with separate data released in May by F-Secure Labs, which also found that mobile malware is rapidly growing — but only for Android. Their figures found that Android accounted for 136 of 149 known threats, or 91.3 percent of all malware activity.