Malicious mobile apps soar by 600 percent globally: Study

Malicious mobile apps soar by 600 percent globally: Study
The growth in smartphones and devices has fuelled surge in malicious applications, which grew globally by over 600 percent to 2.76 lakh in the one year ended March 2013, with majority of the devices being targeted running on android, a study by Juniper Networks says.

According to network solutions provider Juniper Network's third annual mobile threats report, out of the more than 500 third-party application stores hosting mobile malware identified, a majority are located in Russia and China.

"From March 2012 through March 2013, the total amount of malware the Mobile Threat Center (MTC) sampled across all mobile platforms grew 614 percent to 276,259 total malicious apps, compared with a 155 percent increase reported in 2011," the report said.

This trend suggests that more attackers are shifting part of their efforts to mobile, the report said, for which MTC examined more than 1.85 million mobile applications and vulnerabilities across major mobile operating system platforms.

Malware or malicious software, is used by attackers to disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information or gain access to private computer systems.

"By March 2013, Android was the target of 92 percent of all detected mobile malware threats by the MTC. This is a significant uptick from 2011 when Android made up 47 percent of all detected threats and 2010 where just 24 percent targeted the platform," the report said.

Attackers made strides to shorten the supply chain and discover more methods to distribute their apps globally. MTC identified over 500 third-party application stores hosting mobile malware, it said.

"Of these third-party stores, MTC research shows that three out of five originate from two emerging markets infamous for malware in the PC space: China and Russia," the report added.

Since 2012, the Juniper Networks MTC found rapid mobile malware growth and increased sophistication of cyber criminals, turning attacks into an increasingly profit-driven business.

The researchers found that between March 2012-March 2013 just three types of malware account for almost all malicious activity on mobile devices that were sampled.

Fake install applications, malicious programmes, which mimic the behaviour of legitimate apps but require users to pay attackers via premium SMS, made up 29 percent of Android malicious mobile apps, it said.

This is the most popular type of threat in a larger category known as SMS Trojans, which "surreptitiously" send SMS text messages to premium text messaging services. The other category is spyware applications, which secretly capture and transfer user data to attackers, it added.

Attackers continue to benefit from the largely fragmented Android ecosystem that keeps the vast majority of devices from receiving new security measures provided by Google, leaving users exposed to threats, it said.

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Further reading: Mobiles, MTC, SMS Trojans, Malware, Apps
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