By the sheer number of Android devices available in the market today, there are more devices using that operating system than any other mobile family in the world. However, that popularity also makes it attractive to hackers and malware. A recent report published by Public Intelligence says that 79 percent of all mobile threats in 2012 targeted Android.
According to the report, published by the Cyber Intelligence Analysis Division of the Department of Homeland Security, 44 percent of Android users still use Gingerbread, an older version of the operating system with known security flaws. "The growing use of mobile devices by federal, state, and local authorities makes it more important than ever to keep mobile OS patched and up-to-date," said the report.
But Jeff Forristal, chief technology officer of Bluebox Security and a presenter at the Black Hat 2013 conference, said that there is much more to mobile security threats than this one pie chart. "This report doesn't represent the U.S. marketplace very well," he told ABC News. He also said that the data bears a strong resemblance to the F-Secure 2012 mobile security report. "I would not use this chart to indicate what [a user's security] risk is."
In addition, Forristal said that the lack of threats to iOS should not be simply interpreted as Apple having a near flawless security system. "If you go to the CVE database, you'll find 238 security problems specific to iOS devices," he said. "Everything has security risks."
ABC News reached out to the Department of Homeland Security. However, because the document is marked For Official Use Only, no one was able to comment further on the matter.
So if these security risks exist, what can users do to protect themselves? Alicia diVittorio, the consumer safety advocate for the mobile security company Lookout, said there isn't a universal solution. "A big threat to U.S. users is adware, but in countries like Germany or France, one of the biggest threats is SMS fraud," she said. "The type of threat depends on where you are in the world."
However, there are some good safety measures that all users can benefit from.
"It's a little self-serving, but download a security app," said diVittorio. She also adds that there are other types of threats than just malware, including regular old theft.
"One in ten people are a victim of phone theft," she said, putting both personal data and corporate data (if it's a phone for work) at risk. "A lot of apps today have remote locking and wiping. If you feel like you can't get your phone back, use your computer to access the app and lock it."