RiskIQ -- which monitors mobile application stores to detect suspect applications, application tampering and brand impersonation -- said malicious apps in the Google store have grown by 388 percent from 2011 to 2013, ZDNet reported Wednesday.
Malware programs found in the store had one or more of the following characteristics, RiskIQ said: Collect and send GPS coordinates, contact lists, e-mail addresses etc. to third parties; send SMS messages to premium-rate numbers or subscribe infected phones to premium service; take control of an the infected phone, or download additional malware.
"The explosive growth of mobile apps has attracted a criminal element looking for new ways to distribute malware that can be used to commit fraud, identity theft, and steal confidential data," RiskIQ head Elias Manousos said in a statement.
Google has scanned apps for malware characteristics since 2012 before allowing them on the Google Play store and forbids app updates that don't come via its Play store.