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Mobile Malware Up 163 Percent In 2012, Study Says

App repackaging, malicious mobile URLs and "smishing" are top delivery techniques for malicious mobile code

More than 65,000 mobile malware threats were detected in 2012, an increase of 163 percent over 2011, according to a study released this week.

According to a new security report released by NQ Mobile Inc. (PDF), nearly 95 percent of all mobile malware discovered in 2012 targeted the Android OS. The top three methods for delivering malware in 2012 were application repackaging, malicious URLs, and SMiShing.

NQ Mobile estimates that these forms of malware helped infect an estimated 32.8 million Android devices in 2012 -- an increase of more than 200 percent over 2011.

"In the first quarter of 2013, mobile malware threats continued to grow and have become smarter," NQ Mobile says. "In February of this year, a new type of mobile malware was discovered that could jump from an Android device to infect a PC when they were connected via the USB port." Only a few Android devices were infected, the company says.

NQ Mobile Security Labs, a team of more than 250 mobile security professionals around the world who monitor the mobile landscape for new malware threats and mobile hacking methods, has also observed increased collaboration between mobile hackers and cybercriminals, the report says.

"These unlawful collaborations can have disastrous effects on consumers," NQ Mobile states. "Mobile hackers are using malware to capture consumers' private information, and then selling this information to cybercriminals, who are in turn using social engineering tactics to gain access to the consumers' finances."

The top five markets for infected mobile devices were China (25.5 percent), India (19.4 percent), Russia (17.9 percent), the United States (9.8 percent), and Saudi Arabia (9.6%), the study reports.

Sixty-five percent of malware discovered in 2012 falls into a broader category of Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs). PUPs include root exploits, spyware, pervasive adware, and Trojans (surveillance hacks).

NQ Mobile estimates that more than 10 million devices have already been infected in the first quarter of 2013.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add a Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

 

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PJS880
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PJS880,
User Rank: Ninja
4/26/2013 | 3:14:45 PM
re: Mobile Malware Up 163 Percent In 2012, Study Says
That is kind of surprising;
with the iPhone being the leading mobile device on the market I would imagine
that they would have the highest statistics for malware. It also makes sense that
China is the number country with the highest percentage of attacks, I imagine
there mobile device per capita is extremely high. These numbers are only going to grow with time
as the mobile device industry explodes at a continual pace.

Paul Sprague

InformationWeek Contributor
Logan
50%
50%
Logan,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2013 | 8:41:45 PM
re: Mobile Malware Up 163 Percent In 2012, Study Says
It's obvious that malware is becoming a serious issue for mobile, but I'm not convinced that security software for our phones is the answer. Sometimes common sense is
enough to avoid this garbage. And when it's not, I would hope that app stores and ad networks (two of the biggest spreaders of malware) will have adequate filters in place to prevent infection. Google Play has made some progress on this front just this past year, and so has Android ad network Airpush... http://blog.airpush.com/how-ai...
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