Android malware explodes, jumps five-fold since July

'Exponential growth' driven by Google's policy of not vetting apps, veteran hackers moving to Android

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"Together, the Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile platforms are the oldest and most researched mobile platforms, and devices running those mobile operating systems have been the targets of the most prolific and effective malware known to affect mobile devices," said Juniper.

While Google's practice of not policing the Android Market, and its inability to restrict all apps to its own distribution channel, has been pegged as the primary reason for the OS's vulnerability, Hoffman argued that the policy also gave users the means to protect themselves.

"There may be a better vetting process on iOS, but a really critical point is that Android users have the benefit of a security marketplace," said Hoffman, referring to the large number of anti-malware programs available for Google-powered smartphones and tablets.

"In iOS, consumers and even enterprise don't have a choice," Hoffman said. "There's no benefit of competition because users are completely reliant on Apple for security."

Hoffman has a point: When Lookout Security, a leader in Android-based antivirus software, recently introduced a version for iOS it was unable to provide any malware scanning capabilities in the app.

Not surprisingly for someone who works for a security firm, Hoffman also argued that it wasn't up to the OS provider to guarantee a secure device; users have responsibilities, too.

"No matter what policies an app store may have, the real way is to protect a device is to protect it with security software," Hoffman said. "You have to protect your mobile devices just like you protect your PCs."

Juniper's mobile threat report can be downloaded from its website (registration required).

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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