Shakespeare nailed Android's current dilemma in "Henry IV": "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."
Since 2011, Android's share of the worldwide smartphone market has skyrocketed from 49.2 percent to 68.8 percent. That success has not been unqualified, though: a staggering 79 percent of all malware on mobile devices targets Android machines.
This information comes by way of a report from Finland-based F-Secure Response Labs, which monitors digital threats around the world and keeps wary consumers informed and protected.
The report states that while threat levels on BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Apple's iOS are relatively stable, Android's potential hazards have been multiplying at an alarming rate.
The most prominent risk comes in the form of premium SMS scams. These rogue programs are simple and often quite insidious. By masquerading as legitimate apps (such as "Angry Birds" or Instagram), premium SMS malware often installs a working version of the program, but one that requests permissions well in excess of what is normally required.
Gaining access to a user's credit card information, these programs then subscribe to costly messaging or subscription services, putting money directly into scammers' pockets.
Other popular Android hacks include banking Trojans, and anyone using a banking app should be watchful for this kind of malware. To make online banking possible, banks provide users with an authentication number, which is then saved in the phone's cache. [See also: 10 Tips to Keep Your Android Phone Safe]
When hackers get their hands on these numbers, conducting seemingly legal transfers of money into shady accounts is simplicity itself. Last year, one particularly invasive Trojan called Eurograbber robbed users of over $47 million.
Android's rise in market prominence and its malware woes are linked, but a 20 percent increase in market strength does not explain a 200 percent increase in harmful software. In this case, Android's greatest strength is also its Achilles heel.
The platform is considerably more open and developer-friendly than its iOS competitor. While this gives Android operators more freedom in installing apps and modifying a phone's user interface, it also makes the operating system a much easier target for hackers.
Luckily, keeping Android phones safe is no more difficult than protecting home computers. When downloading new apps, be sure that you're getting the official version.
Don't open strange messages or follow questionable links. If you observe any strange program behavior, clear your cache, invest in some mobile anti-virus software or consult your wireless provider.
If everyday users play it smart with their Android phones, F Secure's next report should include much more promising data.
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