The amount of mobile malware on Google's Android platform skyrocketed last year, according to a report from security vendor NQ Mobile.
Compared to 2011, the number of new malicious programs discovered last year rose by 163 per cent, the report [PDF] states, making Android the number one mobile device target for attackers.
The majority of Android malware were root kits, spyware, aggressive adware and remote access programs, NQ Mobile said. Almost a third of malware discovered last year aimed to steal user data for profit, the vendor said, but seven percent of malicious apps were designed to brick or make users' phones stop working.
Over a quarter of all Android devices in China were infected with malware, NQ Mobile said. India and Russia also had high infection rates, followed by the United States and Saudi Arabia.
The favoured delivery mode by malware coders is to repackage existing genuine applications, adding attack code into these. However, links to fraudulent websites that capture user information or initiate malicious downloads were also used by attackers, NQ Mobile said.
A toll fraud application, Bill Shocker, infected 600,000 users in China, making it the most infectious malware ever. Bill Shocker runs in the background and sends out costly premium rate services SMS, running up large bills for those whose devices are infected.
Users not taking basic precautions such as adding passcodes or similar authentication methods are largely to blame for the large number of infections, NQ Mobile said. However, older devices with out of date and insecure versions of Android add to the problem, the vendor stated.
Android has come under scrutiny for its poor security recently. In September last year, another security vendor's telemetry report found that 42 percent of its customers in Russia had infected devices.
Google's Play app market place has also been abused as malware writers set up fake developer accounts to disseminate malicous programs.