The Most Widespread Mobile OS Is The Least Secure

Contributor: Dan Gunderman
Posted: 11/15/2017
Android Security

Doubt your droid? New statistics suggest Android is the most insecure mobile operating system, stacked up against both Windows and iOS.

The information, from Nokia’s 2017 Threat Intelligence Report, suggests that Android is the most likely to become infected. To put that into perspective, consider this: In the past year, 68.5% of infected devices ran on Android. Windows was also bitten by this bug, although not to the extent Android was – 27.96% of infected devices ran on that platform. Conversely, 3.54% ran on iOS.

In total, 0.68% of all mobile devices became infected in 2017. Close to 1% (0.94%) of all Android devices were infected, then. In its Q4 projection, Google predicted that number would hover around 0.71%.

Android, Google’s mobile operating system, has seen a 53% increase in malware in the past year.

Just why does Android appear to be so susceptible to attack? Consider the app store.

Nokia’s Alcatel-Lucent Kindsight Security Labs said that much of the complication stems from trojanized apps, or applications that purport to be genuine, downloadable items, when in fact they’re corrupted and placed in third-party app stores. Sometimes, the apps carry out typical functions, but at their roots carry malicious code from whichever actors are behind the push.

See Related: Is BYOD Worth The Risk?

Because these third-party app stores do not boast the same robust security protections as Google Play Store, users are left open to infection. To underscore Google Play Store’s protection, just 0.05% of Android devices that relied on it for app downloads became infected this year.

It seems to be a more deep-seated issue abroad, specifically China, where only 4% of Android app downloads are made in the Play Store. An identifiable malware strain called Uapush targeted Chinese users.

Enterprise cyber security professionals should be aware of these statistics, if only to mount a defense. While Android has been the focal point of many app-based attacks, it remains an exceedingly popular operating system. This means it could affect BYOD and other devices in the workplace.

To head off an Android infection, users of all types should remain firmly planted in the Play Store, and take notice of apps that appear to be replicas – even while working within Android’s preinstalled shop.

Naturally, users and administrators of all kinds should track where personal information flows after downloads are made, even in app stores. That’s due in part to an increase in adware in the space. In some of these cases, personal details – phone numbers, contact lists – get circulated between parties.

See Related: Essential Guide To Online Security

In the case of trojanized apps, oftentimes they are successful in their endeavor because they are subtle, rooting themselves in the device. Once this root access occurs, other apps can sync up with it, gaining free entry into files outside of their domain.

In its report about the Android infiltration, Nokia wrote, “Network security will have to invest in new tools to ensure that all network devices are securely configured and patched.”

It continued, “Despite the excellent efforts of Google to secure the Android app eco-system with Google Play Protect, Android remains the main target for mobile malware… We attribute this to the prevalence of side-loading apps from third party app stores and other sources. The genie is out of the bottle.”

In its short-term forecast, Nokia said that these infections could worsen, thanks to the ability of malware to propagate on shorter range networks – via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

Dan Gunderman
Contributor: Dan Gunderman