BullGuard Issues Android Spyware Alert

Android devices are a prime target for computer criminals, according to internet security company, BullGuard. With sales of 67.2m units in 2010, according to Gartner, Android has taken second place in the smartphone OS rankings, with a 22.2 per cent market share, behind Symbian on 37.6 per cent, and ahead of RIM on 16 per cent.

But according to Bullguard, this makes Android a prime target for computer criminals. Using spyware applications from Android Market they can harvest personal information and then sell or use the details to, for example, carry out credit card fraud.
The problem arises, the company says, because anyone can upload apps to Android Market without having to submit them to security checks, which means they are not cleared before consumers get access to them. Hackers and computer criminals are exploiting this vulnerability and creating apps that look harmless, but which contain spyware that can collect and transmit sensitive user information, such as passwords and bank details.

“Spyware doesn’t behave like a virus on a desktop computer,” says Philip Dall, mobile security expert at BullGuard. “Spyware is designed not to disturb or destroy anything, as its mission is to secretly obtain and transmit information without being detected. The information is then traded on a ‘black stock exchange’ where the going rate for credit card information is good, and subject to the same rules of supply and demand as on the legitimate markets.”

The problem increases, says Dall, as smartphones become more and more intelligent, and consumers increasingly use their phones to bank online, communicate with organisations and public authorities and generally make use of the same online services that used to be the preserve of their PC. Consequently, the phones are packed with extremely sensitive data which IT criminals want to get hold of.

“Weve become accustomed to having an antivirus program on our computer, which also protects against spyware. But when it comes to mobile phones, there is virtually no awareness about the very same risks, and few have a security program for their Android phone,” says Dall. He recommends that Android users consider two basic security measures to stay safe. “First and foremost, you should think twice before you download applications, by finding out who uploaded it, check which rights and actions the app wishes to make use of, and consider whether this sounds right or not. Secondly, you should install security software on your phone.”

Funnily enough. BullGuard supplies one of the few security programs on the market for smartphones, BullGuard Mobile Security 10. It contains an array of security solutions including Antivirus, Antispyware, Antitheft, Parental Control, Firewall, Spamfilter, Basic Backup and Support. The program can be downloaded from the BullGuard website for £19.95 and works on Android, Symbian, Windows and Blackberry phones.