Mobile malware is rising fast, infecting nearly 13 million phones in the world during the year first half of 2012, up 177% from the same period a year ago, according to Beijing-based security vendor NetQin.
In a report detailing the world's mobile security, the company detected a major spike in malware cases in June, with about 3.7 million phones becoming infected, a historic high. This came as the security vendor found 5,582 malware programs designed for Android during the month, another unprecedented number for the period.
During this year's first half, NetQin found that most of the detected malware, at 78%, targeted smartphones running Android, with much of the remainder designed for handsets running Nokia's Symbian OS. This is a reversal from the same period a year ago, when 60% of the detected mobile malware was designed for Symbian phones.
In total, NetQin detected 17,676 mobile malware programs during 2012's first half, up 42% from the previous six months in 2011.
About a quarter of the detected malware came from China, which led among the world's countries, while 17% came from Russia, and 16.5% from the U.S.
In China, malware is mainly spread through forums, ROM updates, and third-party app stores, according to NetQin. So-called "remote control" Trojan malware that sends spam ads infected almost 4.7 million phones in China.
NetQin also detected almost 3.9 million phones in China being infected with money-stealing malware that sends out text messages to trigger fee-based mobile services. The high number of infections would likely translate into the malware's creators netting $616,533 each day.
The surge in mobile malware has occurred at the same time that China has become the world's largest smartphone market by shipments. Android smartphone sales lead with a 68% market share, according to research firm Canalys.
The country's Guangdong and Jiangsu provinces, along with Beijing, were ranked as the three highest areas in China for mobile malware.