The other day, I talked about the growing dangers of malicious apps hidden in the operating system’s official app marketplace. And we’ve long known about the risks of downloading apps from third parties.
However, a new report from Alcatel-Lucent revealed a new threat to mobile networks: our PCs. According to the Motive® Security Labs H1 2015 Malware Report, 80 percent of malware infections detected on mobile networks have been traced to PCs during the first half of 2015. In 2013 and 2014, half of the malware found on mobile networks came from PCs.
The reason behind this? Our devices are all interconnected through Wi-Fi connections, or smartphones and tablets are directly connected to PCs. As PC World stated:
While those devices are powered by Windows and on a mobile network, they’re not necessarily smartphones or cellular-equipped tablets. In fact, the vast majority are not: They’re traditional PCs, mainly laptops, that use a mobile network rather than a fixed network composed of copper or fiber optic lines.
In addition to using Windows as a gateway to mobile infections, cybercriminals are taking advantage of a familiar operating system that already has a rich malware ecosystem. The desire to continue to hit PCs and laptops running Windows gains the benefit (for the bad guys) of hitting the mobile network.
And the cybercriminals are using this network to spread spyware. According to the report, 10 of the 25 most prolific threats on smartphones are in the mobile spyware category, often bundled with games and free software.
As Patrick Tan, general manager of Network Intelligence at Alcatel-Lucent, said in a formal statement:
The modern smartphone also presents the perfect platform for corporate and personal espionage, information theft, denial of service attacks on businesses and governments, and banking and advertising scams. It can be used simply as a tool to photograph, film, record audio, scan networks and immediately transmit results to a safe site for analysis.
The connection between PCs and mobile infections can have serious consequences for your company’s data. As an Inc. article said, smartphones are still one of the weakest links in your security chain, adding:
Hackers go after smartphones as an entry point; from an infected smartphone, they can jump into a network and wage denial-of-service attacks or commit corporate espionage.
I doubt that there is a real security solution for this situation yet, especially as the infections through PCs are rising, not decreasing. But it is another reminder of the importance of making sure all the basic security steps are followed – patching Windows and software immediately and having good security software on mobile devices.
Sue Marquette Poremba has been writing about network security since 2008. In addition to her coverage of security issues for IT Business Edge, her security articles have been published at various sites such as Forbes, Midsize Insider and Tom's Guide. You can reach Sue via Twitter: @sueporemba