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Verizon debuts security app to battle malware on Android

With Android OS being the most popular target for mobile malware writers, Verizon introduces a Mobile Security app to help users protect personal data stored on their smartphones.

Motorola's Droid Razr Maxx on Verizon wireless.

There's been a lot of news lately on how Android mobile devices are malware's new favorite victims. While Google has been working to beef up security for its mobile OS, wireless carriers are also pitching in.

Verizon announced the launch of its McAfee "Mobile Security" app for Android today, which aims to help subscribers protect stored data on their smartphones. More specifically the paid version of the app lets users remotely locate, alarm, lock, and wipe data from their device.

"While most consumers with smartphones understand they are carrying around the functions of a computer, many do not realize that smartphones are susceptible to some of the same security and privacy threats that plague laptops and desktops," Verizon wrote in a statement today.

According to a report by McAfee that came out earlier this month, 13,000 types of mobile malware have been uncovered this year, which is leaps and bounds more than the 2,000 discovered in 2011.

"During the past few quarters, we've seen that the Android OS is the most popular target for writers of mobile malware," McAfee's report said. "This quarter was no different; practically all new mobile malware was directed at the Android platform. The mix included SMS-sending malware, mobile botnets, spyware, and destructive Trojans."

Users unknowingly download the malware by clicking unsafe links in e-mails or text messages, or by downloading malicious apps. When a smartphone becomes infected, the virus or spyware is capable of sending personal information and login credentials to third parties. Just last week, there was a surge in SMS phishing attacks that tricked victims into providing credit card and other sensitive information to scammers.

Verizon is rolling out two different versions of its Mobile Security app -- one that's free and gives basic antivirus protection and alerts, and another that costs $1.99 per month and lets users remotely locate and lock their phone. These apps are available in the Google Play store and can be downloaded to more than 30 Android smartphones, including Samsung's Galaxy S3 and Motorola's Droid Razr.