Mobile malware explodes, hits business


Smartphone users have seen an explosion of malware in the past year, dominated by schemes targeting Google’s Android operating system, a survey shows.

Report by Sky News

The attacks are also starting to hit corporate networks, possibly as part of broader espionage efforts, according to the Juniper Networks Mobile survey published on Wednesday.

The report showed a 614 per cent jump in mobile malware in the 12 months to March 2013, with Android attacks accounting for 92 per cent.

The prevalence of Android malware is not surprising in light of its dominance of the global smartphone market – around 75 per cent. Juniper said the open platform with less regulation makes it more prone to attacks.

‘Android does not have as rigorous a vetting system’ as rival platforms such as Apple’s iOS and BlackBerry, said Karim Toubba, a Juniper vice president.

‘But the reality is that all the operating systems have vulnerabilities.’

Toubba said the dominant scheme to ‘monetise’ the attacks involves SMS text messages which infect a smartphone and surreptitiously deliver new messages to a ‘premium’ SMS service, for a fee.

These services, which mimic legitimate ones such as those for voting on TV programs, can charge small fees such as 10 cents or 50 cents.

The hackers can quickly cash in by infecting large numbers of devices, and can easily shut down and set up new numbers to avoid detection.

Many users are tricked into installing malware by messages or emails disguised as software updates.

Toubba said some malicious software gets into official channels such as Google Play and the Apple App Store, but that third-party vendors have much more malware.

Not surprisingly, the survey found many of these malicious apps stemming from sites in Russia and China.

Many users fail to even notice when their device is infected, because it may result in a charge of just a few cents on their phone bill.

Juniper found that more sophisticated attacks are starting to emerge, including those that create ‘botnets’ to expand the infections, and other schemes which can be part of a broader corporate or government espionage effort.

This is particularly worrisome for companies which allow employees to use their own devices for corporate networks.

Juniper’s report said it ‘saw several attacks that could potentially be used to steal sensitive corporate information or stage larger network intrusions’.