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US government says Android is a malware magnet thanks to OS fragmentation

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Android Malware stock
Android Malware stock

Android's persistent fragmentation problem isn't just a Google problem, but a federal government concern too. A new study issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says that Android devices expose US agencies to a significantly greater malware threat in large part because so many devices run outdated versions of the mobile OS. Of the malicious attacks documented in the study, 79 percent took place on an Android device. Meanwhile, Apple's iOS received just 0.7 percent of the recorded malware threats.

In addition to fragmentation, the fact that Android is the most widely used mobile OS on the planet also makes it a target for hackers, the DHS and FBI say. About half of the malware threats Android devices encountered in the study — which is based off of data collected in 2012 — came by way text messages that installed attacking apps, the agencies A downside for outdated Androidssay. Neither organization went so far as to say that Android devices shouldn't be used. But the DHS and FBI did issue a joint statement offering the study's findings as something for police, fire, and other emergency responders to consider. Google officials did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Symbian, the old mobile OS that Nokia has largely given up on, accounted for 19 percent of malicious attacks documented in the study. Windows Mobile and BlackBerry devices meanwhile each took a respective 0.3 percent of the malware pie, the study says. "The growing use of mobile devices by federal, state, and local authorities makes it more important than ever to keep mobile OS patched and up-to-date," the DHS and FBI advise. But, all too often, carrier politics and manufacturer policies mean that operating system updates and fixes aren't even an option for many Android devices.

Correction: This article original stated that Windows Phone was cited in the report. That was incorrect. The article has now been amended to read "Windows Mobile."