Malware aimed at smartphones has surged by 800 percent in the past four months, says Get Safe Online.

According to research that was conducted by the national online security initiative, and has been released as part of Get Safe Online week, which takes place this week (November 7 to 11) and aims to promote safe surfing to Brits, 17 percent of smartphone users now use their phone for money matters and over a fifth (22 percent) download new apps at least once a month.

However, with fraudsters populating app stores with malicious software that Get Safe Online says often masquerad as 'free levels' to popular and legitimate online games, or even as security tools, there's an increasing risk for smartphone owners. Once downloaded, the malware enables fraudsters to take control of the victim's phone, allowing them to make calls, send and intercept SMS and voicemail messages, and browse and download online content. They can also gain access to all personal and payment data available on the phone - which can then be sold onto and used by identity fraudsters - and to 'spam' other mobile web users to commit further fraud.

"More and more people are using their smart phone to transmit personal and financial information over the internet, whether it's for online banking, shopping or social networking. This latest research from Get Safe Online shows that and this doesn't escape the notice of criminals. So while accessing the web via a mobile device can be fun and save time, it's important to be vigilant," said Francis Maude, the Minister for Cyber Security.

Rik Ferguson, director for and of security research at Trend Micro, added: "With users now installing and removing apps with increasing frequency, the chance of encountering a rogue app is much higher. Smart phone security, such as anti-virus or anti-malware software, is available but not widely deployed. Soon it will need to be common place."

Get Safe Online advised smartphone owners to be vigilant when downloading apps, such as checking reviews and ratings and even researching the developer online before installing the app. Furthermore, check your phone bill regularly for unusual charges and monitor your handset for any unusual activity, such as quick battery drainage, as Malware can cause a lot of surreptitious activity on your phone.