Mobile Security Threat Rising: Report

By Nathan Eddy  |  Print this article Print

The report estimates between a half million and one million users were affected by mobile malware in the first half of 2011.

Lookout Mobile Security, a provider of mobile security, announced the results of its Mobile Threat Report, based on threat data from its Mobile Threat Network, which includes data collected from more than 700,000 apps and 10 million devices worldwide. The report found that mobile malware has increased significantly, with Android users two-and-a-half times as likely to encounter malware today than just six months ago.

The Lookout report estimated that between a half million and one million users were affected by mobile malware in the first half of 2011. At the same time, Web-based threats which operate across platforms, have emerged as a significant part of the threat landscape with three out of 10 mobile users likely to click on an unsafe link, including malicious and phishing links, over the course of a year.

During the first half of 2011, Lookout found that attackers repackage legitimate applications with malware, creating Trojan applications that appear to be legitimate, but in fact are malicious, and post them to app stores and download sites. More recently, malware writers are using new techniques to secure wide distribution. Attackers employ a tactic called malvertising, whereby they use mobile ads to direct users to a malicious Website that triggers an automatic download of malware. Additionally, Lookout saw the first Update Attack, in which an attacker first publishes a legitimate application with no malware, and once they have a large user base, they release an update that includes malware so the entire user base gets the updated infected application.

"As mobile devices grow in popularity, so do the incentives for attackers," says Kevin Mahaffey, CTO and co-founder of Lookout Mobile Security. "We’ve seen the prevalence and the level of sophistication of mobile malware attacks evolve significantly in the first six months of 2011. We expect this trend to continue as more and more people adopt mobile devices."

As the frequency of mobile threats increase, Mahaffey said mobile users can take measures to stay safe, including only downloading apps from trusted sources, such as reputable app stores and download sites and remembering to look at the developer name, reviews and star ratings. After clicking on a Web link, pay close attention to the address to make sure it matches the Website it claimed to be, he said, and download a mobile security tool that scans every app you download for malware and spyware, and can help you locate a lost or stolen device. For extra protection, make sure your security app can also protect from unsafe Websites.

The company also recommends being on alert for unusual behavior on a phone, as this behavior could be a sign that the phone is infected. These behaviors may include unusual text messages, strange charges to the phone bill and suddenly decreased battery life, the Lookout report noted.