Forty-four percent of Android users are vulnerable to attacks, according to a joint report compiled and issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland security and the FBI, Public Intelligence reports.
The findings of the two government agencies indicate that those users are running dated versions of Google's Android OS -- versions 2.3.3 to 2.3.7, to be exact. These versions of the Android OS are codenamed Gingerbread. Gingerbread was released by Google in 2011.
According to the DHS and FBI, these versions of Android Gingerbread have security vulnerabilities that were fixed in later versions of Android. The report cites three main threats: SMS, or text message Trojans, Rootkits and fake Google Play domains.
SMS/text message Trojans make up roughly half of the malicious programs found on phones running older versions of the Google Android OS. The SMS/text message Trojan works by sending text messages from the afflicted Google Android device to premium-rate numbers that are owned by hackers without the user's knowledge. The user then gets charged substantial amounts of money for the messages.
Rootkits record the user's locations, keystrokes and passwords without the user knowing. You can combat rootkits by downloading anti-Rootkit software such as the Voodoo Carrier IQ detector, which can be downloaded for free from the Google Play store.
Fake Google Play domains are created by cybercriminals and used to trick people into installing malicious software onto their Android devices. The malicious software then gives the cybercriminals the ability to steal sensitive information from your phone, including financial data and log-in credentials. You can combat the threat posed by fake Google Play domains by installing and regularly updating antivirus software for Android devices. The Google Play store has a few solid free antivirus offerings, including AntiVirus Security from AVG and Lookout Security & Antivirus from Lookout Mobile Security.
Considering all the things people are using phones for -- including banking, e-mail and retail purchases -- it's more important than ever to safeguard your Android device from attack. Take the above steps to be safe.
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