Symantec Security Response: The Future of Mobile Malware





At Mobile World Congress this week, smartphone and tablet innovations are set to become a reality over the next 12 months. As mobile manufacturers and app developers continue to up their game each year, so have malware authors. Symantec discovered an average of 272 new malware variants and five new malware families per month targeting the Android mobile operating system in 2013. These threats have taken aim at mobile devices in several ways, such as by attempting to steal personal and financial information, track users, send premium rate SMS messages, and display intrusive adware. We have seen some notable threats that could pave the way for what’s next in mobile malware:

More aggressive financial Android threats

Consumers have been increasingly turning to their smartphones and tablets in order to do their online banking or shopping.

Along with accessing banking apps, mobile devices can be used for two factor authentication (2FA) processes. Once the user tries to log into their online bank account on a computer, a code gets sent to their mobile device, which they can input onto the banking site to verify their identity.

Attackers have caught onto these methods and have developed Android malware to steal these 2FA codes. Threats such as Android.Hesperbot and Android.Perkel intercept SMS messages with 2FA codes and send them directly to attackers. They can also either steal other banking credentials or work with other computer-based threats to compromise victims’ accounts. 

Increasing stealth – Android bootkits

Bootkits are used in advanced threats to typically target Windows computers. These threats operate deep within the operating system, usually infecting the computer’s startup code, such as the Master Boot Record, allowing the malware to execute before the operating system starts up. These forms of threats let an attacker maintain persistence on the compromised computer and hide certain processes from detection. As a result, bootkits can be tricky to deal with, as their components are protected by rootkits or other stealth features. Symantec offers Symantec Power Eraser, Norton Power Eraser, or Norton Bootable Recovery Tool to remove these types of threats on computers.

New routes onto the handset

Android malware typically relies on tricking users into installing a malicious application from an Android marketplace. Increased screening of applications is making it more difficult for attackers to get their malicious apps onto the marketplace. Attackers are instead starting to use desktop computers as a vehicle onto Android handsets, leading to the birth of hybrid threats.

To avoid this threat, users should be wary of connecting their mobile device to untrustworthy desktop computers and ensure that they have security software on both their desktop and mobile devices.

Of course, desktops may not be the only medium involved in these hybrid threats. As the Internet of Things becomes a new reality, it’s likely we’ll see threats attempt to use mobile devices to infect home automation systems and vice-versa.

You can find more information about the above at http://www.symantec.com/connect/blogs/future-mobile-malware.

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The contents of this post were taken from a press release by Symatec.

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Author

Irwin Allen Rivera loves his wife’s cooking so much he’s now twice the man he used to be. His English essay won a Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in 2012. His philosophical-horror story appeared in Philippine Speculative Fiction 8 (2013). He was managing editor and lead writer of Sites and Symbols 2 (2005), a coffee-table book about buildings in UP Diliman – his alma mater (BA Philosophy; MA Creative Writing continuing). He worked at the UP Diliman Information Office before shifting to web content writing. His sudden fiction, “Notwithstanding Pigs,” initially a Friendster testimonial, appeared in Philippines Graphic (2006) and in Very Short Stories for Harried Readers (2007). He used to write for www.technoodling.net.