Studies Show Rise of the Mobile Malware Threat

Sue Marquette Poremba
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BYOD for the CIO: Maximize Productivity While Maintaining Security

If you aren’t convinced that your company needs to step up its mobile device security efforts, two new reports will show you why smartphones pose a serious threat to your network and data.

According to a study conducted by G DATA, a new strain of Android-centric malware is identified every 11 seconds, with approximately 2.3 million new Android malware samples discovered in 2015. Considering that 40 percent of the smartphones in use in the United States are run by the Android operating system, that is a lot of phones at risk for malware infections. In addition, this number of malware detections is up 50 percent from 2014. In fact, Andy Hayter, security evangelist with G DATA, said in a formal statement:

With the increase in mobile usage for sensitive transactions such as banking and shopping, the increase in mobile malware instances as well as malware apps is particularly alarming. The attack surface just continues to grow, and hackers are taking advantage. Users have to be more and more vigilant every day to protect themselves from becoming the next victim.

We should be on the lookout for the increasing complexity of malware targeting mobile banking apps and the relationship between mobile devices and the Internet of Things. As the report stated:

Connected automobiles, fitness wristbands and networks – the Internet of Things is becoming more and more popular, within our homes as well as at work. Criminals are stepping up their activities in this area and are specifically looking for security holes in order to exploit them. Numerous consumer devices in the IoT sector are controlled via Android apps. The experts expect the threat to increase in 2016.

The malware on smartphones is responsible for 60 percent of the infections on the mobile network, according to a recently released Nokia study. While the study also pointed to the steady problem with Android malware, it also warned that iOS-based malware XcodeGhost and FlexiSpy made the top 20 list of malware. This rise in mobile infections comes at a time when infections targeting PCs are dropping. Clearly, cybercriminals have restructured their attacks to target the devices we are using most often. As Kevin McNamee, director of the Nokia Threat Intelligence Lab, told eWEEK:

It's a significant trend and I expect that to continue as mobile devices become more of a target.

He added that about one in 330 smartphones are infected with malware and, as we know, it only takes one piece of malware to do significant damage.

These studies show that mobile needs to be moved higher on the list of security efforts. PC security is still necessary, of course, but mobile security’s time to be a top priority has come.

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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