Malware infection rate accelerating and Android devices worst hit.
Data gathered from cellular networks show that 0.68 percent of mobile devices are infected with malware with 99 percent of the infected devices running Android. Attackers continue to target mobile devices with a variety of adware and malware which led to a 25 percent increase in infections in 2014 according to a report published by mobile security firm Alcatel-Lucent recently.
The company which monitors malicious activity on Internet service provider (ISP) and cellular networks found that 0.68 percent of mobile devices were infected with malware in 2014 up from 0.55 percent the previous year. While that is a small fraction of the total users it extrapolates to an estimated 16 million devices infected worldwide the company said.
More than 99 percent of the infections were on Android devices. Because the Android ecosystem is open adware and malware makers are more likely to target the operating system said Kevin McNamee director of Motive Security Labs at Alcatel-Lucent.
"Most importantly is the fact that there is less control"you can download the apps from thirdparty app stores and there is very little checking of the digital signature that you sign the app with" he said. The top three infectors are Adware. Uapush Trojan.Ackposts and SMSTracker which is a mobile spyware application. All three affect Android devices and are typically downloaded and installed by hiding them in innocuous-seeming applications.
Uapush sends text messages and steals user information from infected devices. Ackposts steals contact details from the victim's phone and SMSTracker allows an attacker to remotely monitor communications peruse a victim's browser history and track the location of the phone.
The steady increase in mobile adware and malware is a sign of the future but the present dangers still belong to the old standbys: desktops and laptops. Alcatel-Lucent found that 13.6 percent of residential broadband customers had a detectable malware infection with severe threats such as bots and banking Trojans accounting for 5 percent. "The Windows devices are still the main focus of the attackers" McNamee said. "They have the lion's share of the malware infections."
While the number of systems with serious malware infections remained about the same the proportion of adware-infected systems nearly doubled. Many of the infections are due to applications such as iBryte and Wysotot which attempt to install other software and earn the developer an affiliate fee. Six of the top seven malicious programs infecting residential broadband users are adware while the other unwanted program hijacks the victim's start page. While such programs are mainly a nuisance they could open the gateway to worse digital plagues McNamee said.
"They [the authors] are making money off of getting stuff installed on that machine so I don't think they really care what they are installing" he said.
BlackBerry and iOS devices accounted for less than 1 percent of infections but the operating systems are not immune to attack and could be targeted if the payoff is attractive the company said.
While the jumps in infection rates for both mobile and PC systems are significant some of the rise could be due to changes in Alcatel-Lucent's market. The company has entered more global markets in the past year and malware tends to gravitate more to regions of the world where the ecosystems are weaker"especially Eastern Europe China and Russia"than in North America where users are less likely to download apps from third-party sites and monetizing compromised devices is more difficult.
Malware is nothing new for today's users. Many understand that there are droves of dangerous cybercriminals just waiting for the opportunity to steal their personal information. However many may not know the specifics involved: what kinds of infections are out there how they can spot them and how they can be avoided in the future.
During the first quarter of this year hackers broke all previous records with the creation of over 15 million new malware samples according to Panda Security. The PandaLabs quarterly report found that more than 160000 unique malware strains are being established every day.
"Over these months levels of cybercrime have continued to rise" noted Luis Corrons PandaLabs technical director. "In fact we have witnessed some of the biggest data thefts since the creation of the Internet with millions of users affected."
The report stated that there are several environments in which malware is more prevalent than others including on Android devices and in social networks. These circles have seen an increasing abundance of hacking activity including infections that subscribe users to premium-rate SMS services without permission. Overall though Trojans are the most popular form of new malware samples being seen this year with 71.85 percent of all new stains and accounting for 79.90 percent of all infection cases. With the emergence of so many new malware samples there are a few that stand out in the cybercrime environment. One such infection is CryptoLocker which PandaLabs pointed out is still encrypting the files of a number of users and demanding ransom for their return. According to CBR contributor Duncan MacRae victims have until the specified deadline to pay a price for file decryption and if not paid hackers will offer their services for an even higher ransom.
One Trojan sample making waves in the cybersphere is Alureon or TDSS a bootkit with a range of malicious capabilities. MacRae noted that TDSS can intercept traffic on a network sifting through the information to steal victims' usernames passwords and payment card details. Many TDSS infections have occurred when users are tricked into manually installing the malicious software.