Threat Intelligence

APT Attacks on Mobile Rapidly Emerging

Mobile devices are becoming a 'primary' enterprise target for attackers.

How does it change security when the label we have for a device no longer describes what it does?

That was a key question Mike Murray, vice president of security intelligence at Lookout, addressed last week at Interop ITX in Las Vegas, in a session on the evolving mobile threat landscape. The label: "Mobile phone." Because, as Murray pointed out, the device that lets us make phone calls isn't really a phone anymore.

"The phone is no longer a phone; it's an electronic device that has access to every part of our digital lives. Unfortunately, we still think of it and protect it like it's a Motorola flip-phone," Murray said. And that gap between what the device does and how it's protected has led to our current situation: "Mobile has become not just a target, but the primary target in the enterprise," he said.

It's becoming the point of entry for many attacks. Murray pointed to the 2018 Verizon Data Breach investigations Report, noting that phishing and smishing are examples of the social attacks that convince many users to click on malicious links or download infected software. Then a dropper installs, or the user clicks through and it installs, he said. "After that, they elevate privilege, install software, and perform espionage on the device," Murray said.

Users' willingness to download malicious software has led to the dawn of the mobile APT (advanced persistent threat) age, Murray said. He pointed to two specific organizations, NSO Group and Dark Caracal, that are carrying out ongoing campaigns for data gathering on mobile devices.

Focusing on these two groups shows the breadth of the type of actors involved in mobile APT campaigns, Murray said. NSO Group is a $500 million per year software "arms dealer" based in Israel, while Dark Caracal is different. "Initially it looked like a couple of 18-year-old students had written the software," he said. "When they looked at the targets, though, they found targets in 38 countries. When they looked at the data stolen, they found massive amounts of information that was taken."

Both, though, show that mobile APT is evolving very differently than APT on PCs. "In the beginning, the PC attackers were not very good. The people attacking mobile devices are very, very good," Murray said, meaning that defenders have much less time to learn from the attackers and build defenses than they did in the dawn of the PC APT wars.

The, key, he explained, is that mobile defenders don't have the luxury of waiting for an attack before they build a defense. "We don't get to be organic in the mobile world," Murray said. "We have to think about where the threats and vulnerabilities are, and what can be done to turn them into actual attacks."

Related Content:

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
New Free Tool Scans for Chrome Extension Safety
Dark Reading Staff 2/21/2019
Making the Case for a Cybersecurity Moon Shot
Adam Shostack, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Technologist, Game Designer,  2/19/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
5 Emerging Cyber Threats to Watch for in 2019
Online attackers are constantly developing new, innovative ways to break into the enterprise. This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at five emerging attack trends and exploits your security team should look out for, along with helpful recommendations on how you can prevent your organization from falling victim.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises Are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How Enterprises Are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Data breach fears and the need to comply with regulations such as GDPR are two major drivers increased spending on security products and technologies. But other factors are contributing to the trend as well. Find out more about how enterprises are attacking the cybersecurity problem by reading our report today.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-9019
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-22
The British Airways Entertainment System, as installed on Boeing 777-36N(ER) and possibly other aircraft, does not prevent the USB charging/data-transfer feature from interacting with USB keyboard and mouse devices, which allows physically proximate attackers to conduct unanticipated attacks against...
CVE-2019-9015
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-22
A Path Traversal vulnerability was discovered in MOPCMS through 2018-11-30, leading to deletion of unexpected critical files. The exploitation point is in the "column management" function. The path added to the column is not verified. When a column is deleted by an attacker, the correspond...
CVE-2019-9016
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-22
An XSS vulnerability was discovered in MOPCMS through 2018-11-30. There is persistent XSS that allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the form[name] parameter in a mod=column request, as demonstrated by the /mopcms/X0AZgf(index).php?mod=column&ac=list&menuid=28&am...
CVE-2018-20784
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-22
In the Linux kernel before 4.20.2, kernel/sched/fair.c mishandles leaf cfs_rq's, which allows attackers to cause a denial of service (infinite loop in update_blocked_averages) or possibly have unspecified other impact by inducing a high load.
CVE-2019-9003
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-22
In the Linux kernel before 4.20.5, attackers can trigger a drivers/char/ipmi/ipmi_msghandler.c use-after-free and OOPS by arranging for certain simultaneous execution of the code, as demonstrated by a "service ipmievd restart" loop.