A top malware researcher said cybercriminals were keeping pace with the evolution of mobile devices.
Xuxian Jiang, assistant professor at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, discovered last week the first malware to use a root exploit against Android Gingerbread, version 2.3.
The GingerMaster trojan is repackaged into legitimate applications that attempt to lure downloads in third-party stores. In one example, the app promises pictures of models.
The malware could access a multitude of functions because it could obtain root access, according to Jiang, including email, pictures and saved data.
The malware uploaded the information it stole to a remote server and connected to a command-and-control server to await additional instructions.
Previous exploits against version 2.3 were confined to specific files based on the permissions of the malicious apps that contained the malware, Jiang said.
Because GingerMaster exploits root access, the virus spreaders can create apps that do not require any permissions, making them more likely to be trusted and installed.
Other Android malware has used root exploits before, but never in the most recent version, Jiang said. That is a sure sign the criminal community has a serious mobile focus.
A Google spokesperson did not return a phone call seeking comment. But Jiang said the vulnerability that the malware takes advantage of was patched in June.