Today, the Juniper Networks Mobile Threat Center (MTC) released its 2011 Mobile Threats Report, which shows evidence of a new level of maturity in security threats targeting mobile devices. This past year saw a significant increase the amount of mobile malware, its sophistication, as well as new nimble social-engineering based attacks. As mobile users download more applications than ever before, they are turning out to be the “killer app” for hackers.
The Juniper MTC examined more than 790,000 applications and other vulnerabilities across every major mobile device operating system to inform the report. The MTC’s malware sample library contains over 28,000 samples, which is significant when compared with recent reports from other highly recognized mobile security vendors that disclosed the total amount of samples in their malware library as 400, 1400, and 2500 respectively.
In 2011, we saw unprecedented growth of mobile malware attacks with a 155 percent increase across all platforms. Most noteworthy was the dramatic growth in Android Malware from roughly 400 samples in June to over 13,000 samples by the end of 2011. This amounts to a cumulative increase of 3,325 percent. Notable in these findings is a significant number of malware samples obtained from third-party applications stores, which do not enjoy the benefit or protection from Google’s newly announced Android Market scanning techniques.
We also observed a new level of sophistication of many attacks. Malware writers used new and novel ways to exploit vulnerabilities. 2011 saw malware like Droid KungFu, which used encrypted payloads to avoid detection and Droid Dream, which cleverly disguised itself as a legitimate application, are a sign of things to come.
Along with more sophistication, Juniper found significant catches of malware that did not exploit technical vulnerabilities but instead relied on social engineering for a quick profit. A new attack method dubbed “Fake Installers” was the fastest growing type of malware found by the MTC. Fake Installers trick victims into unknowingly paying for popular applications that are normally free but have been pirated by the attackers. Victims are tricked into agreeing to terms of service of pirated applications that then send profits via premium SMS messages to the scammers. While these attacks don’t lead to complete financial ruin, they have the promise of making attackers a tidy profit a few dollars a time.
We also found that loss and theft of mobile devices continues to be a problem, with the report detailing a marked shift in the behavior of users regarding their lost or stolen devices. Rather than simply wiping and replacing, Juniper’s statistics detail how more users are locking their device and using the location tracking feature of their Juniper security software to recover, rather than replace, their device.
Looking ahead, 2012 also promises to be a remarkable year for mobile device security, with the projected rapid increase in malware already being seen. Other notable trends include the targeting of online banking and financial transactions, browser-based exploits including drive-by downloads and the targeting of third-party applications installed on the device.
Included in this post is an infographic on the report. You can also find copy of the full report here.
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