Hacker Target #1: Android OS


According to a 40-page Threat Report published by security firm F-Secure in 2013, Android accounted for 97 percent of new threats in 2013 (a jump from 79 percent in 2012). The majority of the threats fell under the Malware category, with Trojans making up most of them. With Android holding 79.3 percent of the market share, it’s no surprise, but there are questions and concerns about what developers can do to ensure that devices are safeguarded and decrease the number of threats.

Android Hack Threat Hacker Target #1: Android OS

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With that said, here’s an overview of how these hacks are happening and what’s being done to try to stop them.

Why are Android Devices So Susceptible to Attacks?

Cyber criminals are targeting Android devices at an alarming rate, with about a 600 percent increase in the last 12 months. This figure leaves consumers wondering why Android devices are so susceptible to attacks.

  • Transmitting data. Because Android devices exclusively use wireless communications and oftentimes unsecured public Wi-Fi connections, hackers can use what’s called a man-in-the-middle attack to break into the device, redirecting data to exploit its resources before forwarding it to the original destination. This allows hackers to spy on your Internet activity, stealing keystrokes to identify passwords while listening to calls and intercepting texts. Not only that, but they can also isolate your physical location.
  • Third-party apps. According to researchers, most of the malware discovered was included in popular third-party applications. About 44 percent of apps were designed to subscribe downloaders to expensive services, 24 percent stole their data, and 17 percent had adware on them.
  • SMS Trojans. Hackers can include premium dialing functionality into a Trojan app that can substantially increase a victim’s phone bill while getting the mobile carrier to collect and distribute the funds to them.

What are Developers Doing to Safeguard Android Devices?

Believe it or not, Android is actually a very secure operating system. It includes multiple layers of protection to safeguard you from threats like malware, requiring your permission to do just about anything that could compromise your data or the system. With that said, Android is an open-source system that trusts its users and its community of developers to do the right thing. While the Android operating system tries to protect you from yourself, you have the final say on what gets installed onto your device and how. In short, the users are the problem.

How Can You Protect Your Android Device From Malware Attacks?

Ultimately, as stated in the prior paragraph, it’s up to the users to protect themselves from threats that could be lurking in the dark territories of the Interwebs. This in-depth article from CNET highlights how users can protect their devices from malware attacks. Here’s a brief summary of what the article and other sources state.

  • SSL encryption. This is one of the best ways to safeguard your data while it’s in transit.
  • Test third-party apps. First, make sure you’re downloading apps from credible app stores from companies like Google, Samsung, and Amazon. If you do consider downloading an app from a third-party source, use a mobile security vendor to test the security and authenticity of the app. Also, read the permissions that apps require prior to downloading them. Suspicious permissions may ask you to reveal your identity or location.
  • Be careful of SMS Trojans. Install controls to avoid unauthorized access to paid-for resource. If an application requests a payment via SMS on your HTC, make sure you exercise even more caution.
  • Purchase a device with preloaded anti-malware apps. Many of the major mobile providers now offer Android devices with anti-malware apps installed on the device in addition to standard “bloatware”. T-Mobile was one of the early adaptors to this, partnering with mobile security firm Lookout Inc. to provide Automatic App Security on all Android devices sold into T-Mobile plans.

Even with the risks involved because of how much trust the operating system puts in its users, Android is still managing to outsell its competitors and grow to have even a larger slice of the market share pie. This isn’t likely to end anytime soon, as, according to TechCrunch, Android accounts for most of the smartphone sales and more people are purchasing them.

Are you an Android user? How are you protecting yourself from attacks? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Joe Fortunato is a professional writer based out of Tampa, FL. As an avid tech fanatic, Joe is constantly on the lookout for new things that will help him enjoy his hobbies: playing golf, brass instruments, cooking ethnic foods, and bass fishing. To find more of Joe’s published work, check out his Twitter profile, @joey_fort.


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