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Mobile malware on the rise, but no worries for Apple users

According to a new report from telecommunication company Alcatel-Lucent's Motive Security Labs (opens in new tab) security threats to mobile and residential devices and attacks on communications networks all rose in 2014.

It estimates that 16 million mobile devices worldwide have been infected by malware.

It also points out many retail cyber-security breaches in 2014 were the result of malware infections on cash registers or point-of-sale terminals, not online stores, so shopping offline isn't guaranteed to keep your details safe.

The report finds that malware infections in mobile devices increased 25 per cent in 2014, compared to a 20 per cent increase the previous year.

Android devices have now caught up with Windows laptops, which used to be the primary workhorse of cybercrime. Infection rates detected by researchers are now split roughly 50/50 between Android and Windows devices.

Less than one per cent of infections come from iOS and Blackberry devices, indicating the benefit of their more strictly controlled app stores. However, new vulnerabilities indicate that these platforms aren't entirely immune from threats. Alcatel-Lucent says that mobile malware generally is gaining in sophistication with more advanced command and control features.

The overall monthly infection rate in residential fixed broadband networks is up too at currently just under 14 per cent, a fairly substantial rise from the nine per cent recorded in 2013.

The big increase in mobile infection rates is aided by the fact that many users still don't take proper precautions. Few people would now think of attaching a Windows PC to the web without protection but the same isn't true of Android. The spotlight therefore tends to fall on service providers to address the issue.

"With malware attacks on devices steadily rising with consumer ultra-broadband usage, the impact on customer experience becomes a primary concern for service providers," says Patrick Tan, general manager of Network Intelligence at Alcatel-Lucent.

"As a result, we're seeing more operators take a proactive approach to this problem by providing services that alert subscribers to malware on their devices along with self-help instructions for removing it".

The full report is available to download as a PDF (opens in new tab) from the Alcatel-Lucent site.

Photo Credit: (opens in new tab)/Shutterstock (opens in new tab)

Ian Barker worked in information technology before discovering that writing about computers was easier than fixing them. He has worked for a staff writer on a range of computer magazines including PC Extreme, was editor of PC Utilities, and has written for TechRadar, BetaNews, IT Pro Portal, and LatestGadgets.