Android malware more common than computer viruses, Sophos says

Mobile malware is becoming more common – and now it”s an even bigger threat than viruses attacking PCs, according to a new report. 

Mobile malware attacking Android devices has been growing exponentially over the past year, according to several recent studies. Experts say the growing threat is due to the devices” increasing popularity — mobile gadgets are becoming more popular in general, and Android currently makes up 52% of the smartphone market share in the US — and tools that let hackers create new malware strains with little effort.

In fact, thanks to the rapid increase in threats against Android, Google”s mobile operating system is now more frequently attacked by malware than Windows PCs, according to a recent report from IT security firm Sophos.

The top mobile security threats seen by Sophos in 2012 include:

  • Secretly sending expensive text messages to premium messaging services
  • Eavesdropping on mobile banking apps to steal data that can be used to defeat even two-factor authentication, and
  • Malicious apps that are able to gain root-level access to a device and install additional mobile malware in the future.

Google launches enterprise app stores

Mobile malware is often disguised as legitimate software — for example, many viruses are included in phony versions of the popular Angry Birds game. And often, those viruses find their way into Google Play, the official Android app store.

And, as Sophos notes, there are many mobile apps that aren”t necessarily malicious but can introduce IT security risks by collecting too much data. That software is also easily available in official app stores.

One strategy many companies are using to protect against mobile malware and other threats on corporate-issued phones and devices brought in through a BYOD program: a customized enterprise app store.

That allows IT to give users access to apps developed for in-house use, as well as control what outside apps can be installed by mobile users.

Google recently announced a new feature allowing businesses that use Google Apps to create their own private channels within the Android app store. Called , the service will allow IT departments to publish their own apps to users within the company.

At least initially, organizations won”t be able to add existing apps developed by others to the private store or publish an app both publicly and privately, but Google may add functionality to the service in the future.