Significant rise in mobile infections via PCs, malware report shows

The preponderance of security threats over mobile networks increasingly came from personal computers and laptops in the first half of 2015.
The preponderance of security threats over mobile networks increasingly came from personal computers and laptops in the first half of 2015.

In the first half of 2015, the preponderance of security threats over mobile networks have increasingly come from a seemingly unlikely source – personal computers and laptops, according to a report released on Wednesday from Alcatel-Lucent.

The Motive Security Labs H1 2015 Malware Report studied trends and statistics for malware infections in more than 100 million devices connected through mobile and fixed networks where Motive Security Guardian malware detection technology is deployed. Motive Security Guardian detects malware infections by looking for known C&C exchanges in the network traffic.

While the study detected a drop in Android infections in the early part of the year, 80 percent of malware infections detected on mobile networks were traced to Windows-based computers and laptops connected to the mobile network via phones, dongles and mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. This is a significant change from 2013 and 2014 when the source of mobile network infections were roughly split 50:50 between Android and Windows-supported devices.

As mobile networks are growing exponentially as the primary way to access the internet, the study found that organised cyber-criminals have contributed significantly to the infection rate on mobile networks owing to their investment in the Windows malware ecosystem.

These miscreants also are using the platform to spread larger doses of spyware. In fact, the study found that 10 of the 25 top threats on smartphones were in the mobile spyware category and are often delivered bundled with games and free software. These insidious apps allow criminals to track a phone through geolocation and eavesdrop on calls, text messages, email and browser histories.

“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," Patrick Tan, general manager of network intelligence at Alcatel-Lucent, said in a statement following the release of the study. "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.”

Adware too increased in 2015 with the intention of the automatically rendered advertisements becoming more sinister. One, contained in software bundles offering free apps or games, adds a plugin to Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome that when installed could inject malware.

In examining the top 25 threats to mobile devices, the Motive report from Alcatel-Lucent concluded that the main threats are currently:

  • Spyphone apps that track calls, text messages, location, email and browsing;
  • ‘Scareware' apps that try to extort money by claiming to have encrypted the phone's data;
  • Identity theft apps that steal personal information from the device;
  • Banking ‘trojans' that attempt to steal banking credentials and credit card numbers;
  • SMS trojans that make a living by sending text messages to ‘premium' numbers;
  • Malicious adware that uses personal information, without consent, to deliver annoying targeted ads.
  • A proxy app allowing hackers to anonymously browse the web through an infected phone – at the owner's expense.  
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