Malware for smartphones and tablets is up 273% in the first half of 2011, compared with the same period in 2010, a study has shown.
Research from G Data Security Labs shows cyber criminals are increasingly targeting mobile devices, with cross-platform Trojans dominating the malware landscape.
In the first half of 2011, researchers recorded one new malware strain every twelve seconds on average. G Data believes there is no end in sight to this malware flood.
"With mobile malware, cyber criminals have discovered a new business model," said Eddy Willems, security evangelist at G Data.
Even though this special underground market segment is still being set up, there is an enormous risk potential for mobile devices and their users, Willems said.
Mobile malware identified in the first half of the year included NickiBot and the manipulated app called Zsone.
NickiBot functionality included spying on its victims. One variant of the malware, called Google++, is available as an application for the social network Google+ and records background noises and calls. The malware uses a website to send this information, including GPS tracking data, to the attacker. This enables perpetrators to access personal information and determine the user's current location at any time.
Zsone was spread via the Google Android Market. The Trojan secretly sends subscription registrations to expensive Chinese premium SMS numbers. Since the registration confirmation is also intercepted, users can only detect this scam by checking their bills.
As smartphones and tablets with an Android operating system become ever more popular, cyber criminals are increasingly relying on mobile devices for spreading malware code.
According to Willems, researchers are expecting another spurt of growth in the mobile malware sector in the second half of the year.
Overall, G Data research shows malware is on the rise, with a new record set in the first half of 2011 of 1,245,403 new pieces of malware identified, a 15.7% increase compared to the second half of 2010.
Willems says this growth is expected to continue over the next six months and is on course to reach an annual total of new malware strains for the year of at 2.5 million, compared with just over 2 million in 2010.