Mobile Malware Top Third Quarter Threat

Sue Marquette Poremba
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I detected a common theme in security over the past couple of weeks, especially as companies begin to release their third quarter or fall-based reports: Mobile malware is escalating.

In its State of Mobile Malware report, Blue Coat found that ransomware has become the top mobile threat. As eSecurity Planet reported:

Ransomware creators, the report notes, are taking advantage of modern smartphones' improved performance and using the Tor network to anonymously encrypt victims' files, photos, videos and other documents, then demand payment within a specific timeframe in order to decrypt the data.


The other primary types of malware discovered on our mobile devices are potentially unwanted software – think adware – and information leakage, where apps are watching and recording your behavior.

This report comes at the same time as warning of a serious new Android malware was released, in the form of adware. According to International Business Times, the adware is found in thousands of popular apps, ranging from Facebook to Candy Crush. Apparently, there is no way to remove the adware but, the article pointed out, there is a way to avoid it. The malware is coming from unauthorized third-party stores. At the same time, there are concerns that this adware problem is only going to get worse before it gets better:

We expect this class of trojanised adware to continue gaining sophistication over time, leveraging its root privilege to further exploit user devices, allow additional malware to gain read or write privileges in the system directory, and better hide evidence of its presence and activities.

Apple devices aren’t immune from this rise in mobile malware. Kaspersky Lab reported that malware called Xcodeghost was discovered within the App Store:

The attackers didn’t hack the App Store, but hosted a malicious version of Apple’s Xcode. Xcode is a free suite of tools used by software developers to create iOS apps. It is officially distributed by Apple, but also unofficially by third parties: someone in China hosted a version of Xcode that contained XcodeGhost. Some Chinese developers choose to download development tools such as this from local servers because it is much quicker.

This rise in mobile malware could be devastating to companies with weak BYOD programs. As Dr. Hugh Thompson, CTO and senior vice president with Blue Coat, said in a formal release about his company’s report:

The implications of this nefarious activity certainly carry over to corporate IT as organizations rapidly adopt cloud-based, mobile versions of enterprise applications, opening up another avenue for attackers.

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



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