Google's Android platform is now the most popular for malicious mobile programs, overtaking other platforms as well as 'generic' Java malware,
The share of Android-based malicious programs among all mobile malware is more than 46%, and growing rapidly, according to security firm Kaspersky Lab.
The researchers say this is not surprising due to the platform's leading market share, flexibility and openness, and lax control over app distribution.
In September 2011, the number of newly discovered malware for Android-based devices increased by more than 30%. In October 2011, the share of Android malicious apps trying to steal personal data went up to 34%, including apps distributed through the official Android Market.
Researchers say Spy.AndroidOS.Antammi.b is an example of a malicious app distributed through the official store. The app, which masquerades as a simple app for downloading ringtones, appeared on Android Market only to be removed after notification from Kaspersky Lab.
The "cover" program is designed for users in Russia to buy ringtone, but in the background, Antammi.b steals contacts, texts, GPS coordinates and even photos. The activity log is then sent to the criminal behind the scam via a simple e-mail message, and the data is uploaded to a server.
In addition to stealing personal data, sending texts, and making calls to premium numbers, mobile malware is also targeting banking services that send one-time passwords and confirmation codes to mobile phones.
Despite the growing threat, many users of smartphones are unaware that they are being targeted by hackers, a survey has revealed.
More than 80% of users polled by security firm ESET UK do not have any antivirus software installed on their smartphone and that 31% said they were unaware of the risk of attack.
Some 90% of smartphone owners use the device to browse the Internet, 58% regularly open email attachments on their phone and 21% use their phone for Internet banking.
The study shows that the smartphone is increasingly being used as a primary point of connection to the Internet and more and more people are using their devices to carry out sensitive tasks such as online shopping and mobile banking.
"However, worryingly people are not recognising that smartphone devices are at just as much a risk of being targeted by hackers as desktop PCs are," says Quinton Watts, vice president of marketing at ESET UK.
Smartphone users carrying out such transactions should install antivirus software on their device as attacks on smartphones are increasing and they are becoming a very easy, yet valuable, target for hackers, he said.