Android phones target of hackers
Operating system that's on 80 per cent of smartphones is 'particularly vulnerable' to malware attacks, says cyber security centre
Users of Android mobile devices are at higher risk of being targeted by malicious software than users of other operating systems, according to the city's cyber security watchdog.
The Android system dominates about 80 per cent of the smartphone market, making it the top target of malicious software, or malware, said Leung Siu-cheong, a senior consultant with the Computer Emergency Response Team Co-ordination Centre. "It's particularly vulnerable due to its large number of users and comparatively lower app development cost," Leung said.
"Application-to-application communication is also more flexible for Android users than Apple's iOS system and has less stringent requirements."
A recent study by the centre identified at least six out of 180 phone apps as being at high risk of attack. The analysis was done based on apps available in Google's Play Store. Three of the six were withdrawn from Google's Hong Kong store. All of them were free apps, ranging from video streaming and games to fortune-telling.
Several of the apps were found with malware, such as the Android.Trojan.Generic, a backdoor trojan virus, which runs in the background and allows remote access to the infected device. That means access to sensitive information such as internet activity, passwords, location and International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) - a unique 15-digit identifier built into every mobile device.
Others were found to have dangerous "advertisement plug-ins". Ad plug-ins come packaged with the apps and can be downloaded and installed without a user's permission. Once installed, adware can collect information about the mobile device without approval. It can then be passed on.
"Many people often forget smartphones are also computers and they think there is no need to install anti-virus software," Leung said, adding there was a lack of awareness of cyber security for mobile devices in the city.
"There are more types of malware on smartphones than PCs, so people must do more to protect themselves," Leung said.
He encouraged users to keep their apps to a minimum and to delete the ones they rarely use.
The centre will conduct a "cyber drill" in November to test the response of mobile network operators and internet service providers to large-scale cyberattacks.