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A new report indicates that malware targeting mobile networks and devices surged by 20% based on Q4 2013 data, mostly targeting 4G LTE devices, with an estimated 11.6 million mobile devices infected.

Android devices made up about 60% percent of mobile infections, most by way of trojanized applications supplied by third-party application stores, from the Google Play Store, or through phishing operations that employ social engineering techniques.

The study also found that about 40% of mobile malware had originated from infections on Windows-based laptops that were synced to a mobile device or connected directly through a USB stick or MIFI hub, while malware on iPhones devices and BlackBerry devices accounted for less than 1% of infections.

“Criminals traditionally go after low hanging fruit. Not only is Android the largest smartphone market, unlike iPhone and Blackberry, it allows apps to be loaded from third party sites,” said Kevin McNamee, director of Alcatel-Lucent’s Kindsight Security Labs.

“This provides cybercriminals with an un-policed mechanism to distribute their malware which can easily evade detection by device-based anti-virus. Thus, in 2013 we saw an increased trend towards operators offering network based anti-virus security to subscribers as a service.”

Other key findings in the report include:

  • The mobile infection rate was 0.55 percent in the fourth quarter. Based on this, it is estimated that at any time over 11.6 million mobile devices – mostly Android – are infected by malware
  • The number of mobile malware samples grew 20 times in 2013
  • The residential infection rate in fixed networks dropped from 9.6 percent in October to 8.7 percent in December. For the year, it remained relatively flat at 10 percent
  • Six percent broadband residential customers were infected with high-level threats such as a bots, root-kits, and banking Trojans
  • Although ZeroAccess malware topped all infections in the fourth quarter, its infection rate dropped from 0.8 percent to 0.4 percent due to Microsoft’s and Symantec’s efforts to disrupt its operations

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