Ina Fried

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Smartphone Owners Outside U.S. Far More Likely to Be Struck by Malware

While Android smartphones in the U.S. and those in Russia look fairly similar, there is a far greater chance that a Russian phone is infected with some form of malware.

In studying its new users, mobile security specialist Lookout said that less than 1 percent of those in the U.S. have malware on their device, compared to about 40 percent in Russia.

“It’s really a pretty massive gulf,” says Lookout lead security product manager Derek Halliday.

The biggest threat out there is a type of malware known as “toll fraud,” in which software is installed that signs up for premium services, such as expensive text messages. Such schemes accounted for 79 percent of malware detected in the last year, Lookout said in an annual threat report being released on Thursday.

A big contributor to that was a pyramid scheme called FakeInst, which allowed people to join in the malware spreading and get a piece of the ill-gotten gains.

“FakeInst is responsible for the huge surge in unique malware packages and a significant financial return,” Lookout said. “We estimate that FakeInst may have stolen millions of dollars from people in Eastern Europe and Russia.”

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