The first half of 2011 was the busiest period of malware to date as increasingly sophisticated hackers set their sights on mobile devices, particularly those using Google's Android operating system, according to a new report.
In a report released Tuesday, the cyber-security firm McAfee said malware jumped 22 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year. Google's Android operating system was the most popular target for mobile malware developers during the second quarter, according to the report.
Hackers are setting their sights on Android, the report found, by disguising malware as legitimate apps. For example, a fake update of the popular game Angry Birds sends sensitive information about the user to the hacker who gains access to the user's phone and downloads more malicious software, the report found.
In early March, after several malicious apps were published to the Android Market, Google said it was taking measures to help prevent additional malicious applications from being distributed and working to fix the underlying security issues. It said the malware did not affect Android versions 2.2.2 or higher.
But in a white paper released in June, the security firm Symantec noted that Google's model for vetting apps on Android devices was "less rigorous and consequently, less secure" than Apple's iOS platform.
Namely, Google allows attackers to anonymously create and distribute malware in the Android market and relies on Android users to make important security decisions they are often not capable of making, Symantec found.
The findings come as Americans are now buying more smart phones with the Android operating system than those running Apple's iOS.
McAfee's report also found an increase in fake anti-virus software for Mac operating systems, suggesting that such malware could start appearing on other Apple products, including iPhones and iPads.
The report also said cybercriminals are continuing to buy and sell bulk email address lists to send spam. For example, one million email addresses in the United States now sells for just $25, according to the report.