The evolution of android Malware



The evolution of Android malware remains one of a dynamic as well as continuous procedure since the introduction of the Android Operating System (Sharma et al.2020). It is worth mentioning in this context that Android continues to be one of the most commonly and largely availed mobile operating systems across the world, making it a lucrative target for malware developers and cybercriminals (Mercaldo et al.2018). This report is going to highlight the potential stages associated with the evolution of Android malware.

The important phases in the evolution of Android malware:

The initial years of Android malware (From 2008 to 2011):

In the initial years of the Android operating system, malware used to be considerably rare. Typically, the malicious applications depended on social engineering techniques, for example, promising free games or software for tracking the users into installing the same (Zavarsky and Lindskog, 2016). However, certain early strains of malware ended up exploiting the vulnerabilities associated with the Android platform aiming at gaining root access along with controlling the infected devices (Zhang et al.2020). For instance, the DroidDream malware was released in 2011, was one of the earliest versions of Android malware and ended up affecting thousands of Android devices by exploiting their underlying security vulnerabilities (Suarez-Tangil and Stringhini, 2018).

The increase in Spyware (Between 2012 and 2014):

With the growing popularity of Android, malware continued to be sophisticated and spyware turned into one of the most common types of Android Malware that stole confidential information, such as text messages, contracts and call logs (Zhang et al.2020). Additionally, the malware apps were responsible for posing as legitimate services or apps to the users of those devices. The Obad and FakeInstaller became the two prominent Android malware during this timeframe (Zavarsky and Lindskog, 2016).

Banking Trojans and Ransomware (Between 2014 and 2016):

Banking Trojans and ransomware were mainly used to target the Android devices that continued emerging between 2014 and 2016 (Suarez-Tangil and Stringhini, 2018). Ransomware was responsible for locking their users out of their Android devices followed by demanding a ransom for providing them with access back whereas Banking Trojans ended up targeting mainly the financial apps, gaining unauthorized access to the login credentials and other sensitive details. Lockdroid was a notable example of ransomware and that of Banking Trojan was Marcher (Cai et al.2021).

Malware on Android app stores (2016 to present):

The malicious applications have increasingly been finding their way onto legitimate app stores, such as Google Play whereas hackers keep on using tactics including obfuscation to evade detecting through security scanners (Mercaldo et al.2018). Furthermore, there has been a widespread presence of different types of adware and fraudulent applications, for example, Joker is a malware, responsible for causing subscription fraud (Zavarsky and Lindskog, 2016).

Emerging techniques:

The malicious actors continue adopting more emerging mechanisms, such as zero-day attacks and supply chain attacks whereas certain malware strains, such as Agent Smith and Triada, are responsible for capturing root access while persisting on the affected devices. On the other hand, Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) platforms continue emerging, making it simpler for hackers to design and spread Android malware (Gao et al.2019). In addition to that, certain Android malware has been designed these days for targeted attacks, essentially against high-end corporations, individuals and government agencies (Suarez-Tangil and Stringhini, 2018). However, those attacks mainly include high-level espionage tricks, such as custom-designed malware and spyware (Zhang et al.2020). As far as the emerging and ongoing cyber threats are considered in the context of the evolution of Android malware, it is noticed that with the continual evolution of Android technology, the threat landscape has been sophisticated with the malware designers continuously adapting to the new security postures (Tam et al.2017). Be that as it may, the implementation of AI and ML in the process of malware identification and evasion demonstrates one of the growing concerns whilst the threats associated with mobile wallets and cryptocurrency also are on the rise (Xu et al.2018).


To defend against Android malware, users must practice caution while downloading apps, updating their devices or applications, using reputable security apps and being aware of the common social engineering and phishing techniques (Tam et al.2017). Cybersecurity experts and developers should work continuously to add value to the security of the Android ecosystem to mitigate emerging threats.

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