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FBI, DHS Warn the Most Popular Cellphone System Is Vulnerable to Malware


"...more important than ever to keep OS patched and up-to-date."

A leaked document prepared by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warns Android users who have not upgraded to newer operating systems of malware threats.

android This June 27, 2012 file photo shows an Android display at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco. Google is expected to use its annual software developers conference to showcase the latest mobile devices running on its Android software, while also unveiling other features in its evolving product line-up. The gathering is scheduled to begin Wednesday morning, May 15, 2013, in San Francisco. (Photo: AP/Paul Sakuma)

The unclassified document marked for official use only was issued last month to police, fire, EMS and security personnel, but was posted just last week to the website Public Intelligence.

It states that the world's most popular operating system (OS) for cellphones has not been upgraded to its latest version by 44 percent of its users. Newer versions of the Android operating system have fixed several vulnerabilities, but those who remain on the version known as Gingerbread (versions 2.3.3. through 2.3.7) could be more susceptible.

Android's current OS is known as "Jelly Bean." A more comprehensive  overhaul, called "Key Lime Pie," is expected but a release date has not been officially announced.

"The growing use of mobile devices by federal, state and local authorities makes it more important than ever to keep OS patched and up-to-date," the document says. But it's a good message for all Android users who have not upgraded their system since 2011.

Malware targeting this system could result in costly charges; logging keystrokes, which could provide valuable information like passwords; or installing software that can download sensitive information.

In addition to pointing out that Android sees 79 percent of all malware threats, the document includes a chart showing this percentage compared to other operating systems.

malware threats Pie chart showing malware threats to various operating systems. (Image via FBI/DHS document)

Industry security reports have echoed the concern in this document as well.

"Android devices are directly in the crosshairs of hackers as threats proliferate and the user-base expands with little thought given to security," the security firm Trend Micro said in a statement this month. "The Security Roundup Report shows the number of malicious and high-risk Android apps has grown to 718,000 in the second quarter – a massive increase from the 509,000 high-risk apps found in the previous quarter. These malicious apps are on track to exceed one million by year's end, as predicted by Trend Micro in the 2013 forecast. By way of comparison, it took a decade for PC malware to amass this number."

For those wishing to upgrade to a new operating system, ZDNet pointed out that this often requires getting a whole new device.

"Many manufacturers and carriers do not issue the latest Android versions for older devices," the tech site reported.

(H/T: SlashGear)



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