German cyber security firm G Data recently identified 24 Android phones from Chinese manufacturers like Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi that have spyware pre-installed.
Between the first and second quarters of 2015, the firm said in its mobile malware report, there was a 27% increase in the absolute number of malware samples it detected.
G DATA experts believe that there are middlemen behind this proliferation of malware. These middlemen change the firmware so that they can steal user data later.
The report also noted that this was the first time that more than a million instances of malware were detected in a six-month period, since the time G DATA has been publishing the report. Experts at the security firm expect the total number of malware samples for the Android operating system to hit the 2 million mark by the end of this year.
The report mentions a monitoring app, Android.Monitor.Gsyn.B, that security experts found disguised as a Google Drive application, can listen in on phone conversations, access and copy contacts, steal images, take control of the device’s microphone, and access SMS, WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and Facebook messages.
The report added that malware was becoming more sophisticated. In particular, it points out that the recent Hacking Team data dump that made the source code of some of the firm’s spyware public would help cyber criminals exploit this knowledge base and enhance their own malware. The Italian company Hacking Team sold spying software to intelligence agencies and governments around the world.