Over two-thirds of all Android smartphones in the United States are susceptible to hacking attacks, a study conducted by mobile cyber security firm Skycure suggests. According to the company's findings, 71 percent of active handsets in the country are running security patches that are over two months old, making them highly vulnerable to various known attack avenues that were patched with more recent updates. The alarming percentage only pertains to Android devices running on networks owned by one of the five largest wireless carriers in the country, but that's still the vast majority of the U.S. In terms of individual mobile service providers, customers of MetroPCS are the most susceptible to attacks as they're running security patches that are over three months old on average, the study found. Finally, over a third of all active Android handsets in the U.S. are at least three patches behind Google's update schedule according to which the Alphabet-owned tech giant releases security updates on a monthly basis.
Skycure's report also suggests the number of mobile threats grew in a rather rapid manner over the course of 2016. Common malware in particular experienced a significant surge as it was 500-percent more frequent in Q4 2016 than it was during the first quarter of last year. Furthermore, while the majority of active smartphones in the country are running somewhat outdated security patches, six percent of them are still on patches that are at least half a year old, the study reveals. While these figures only represent theoretical risks, the actual number of attacks is also on the rise, especially in urban areas like Boston that has experienced a 960-percent increase in network incidents over the course of last year. At a country level, the number of network attacks more than tripled last year, the report suggests.
Compared to 2015, cyber security experts have identified four times more Android vulnerabilities in 2016, close to half of which provided malicious apps with excessive privileges. Using malware was the most popular method of attacking smartphones as even people who aren't particularly technically skilled can utilize contemporary malware to compromise unsuspecting users, which is now easier than ever as malware is freely available for sale, Skycure's report indicates. The company concluded its report by providing users with some tips on how to keep their devices protected. Apart from making sure they're running the latest Android Security Update, users are also encouraged to never install suspicious apps or connect to websites that they aren't confident are completely safe. Finally, Skycure also suggested installing a free Android security app like its very own mobile tool of the same name.