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Cybercrooks shifting to mobile malware, Nokia report

Nokia researchers said threat actors are shifting from traditional to mobile malware after spotting an 83 percent uptick in the increase of smartphone infections in the second half of 2016.

The Nokia Threat Intelligence Report found that the overall monthly infection rate averaged 1.08 percent in the second half of 2016 which they said was up 63 percent from the first half of 2016.

Researchers also noted Android devices continue to be the main mobile platform targeted for infection. The Android app market consists of hundreds of third-party app stores in addition to Google Play, which provide thousands of other outlets in which Android users can download malicious apps, Kevin McNamee, head of the Nokia Threat Intelligence Lab told SC Media.

He added that while Google does a great job of keeping Google Play clean for Android devices, all apps on Apple devices come from the Apple store making it more difficult to infect Apple users.

Currently most mobile malware is distributed as 'trojanized' applications," McNamee said. "Apple is less targeted because they have tighter control of their app market. The user typically gets infected by downloading and installing an infected application.”

Researchers did say its important to note that iOS-based devices were also targeted, particularly in the form of Spyphone applications. The report went on to say that many people were surprised to learn that Windows/PCs are responsible for a large portion of the malware infections detected when analyzing mobile network traffic.

“These Windows/PCs are connected to the mobile network using USB dongles and mobile Wi-Fi devices or simply tethered through smart phones. They are responsible for 15 percent of the malware infections observed,” the report said.

McNamee said the biggest contributor to the increase in mobile infection rates is that mobile device are becoming the platform of choice for accessing the internet which makes them the target of choice for cybercrime.

One of the most common methods of infecting users is by embedding the malware inside popular games to entice the users to download it onto their devices. Mobile devices other than smartphones posed a threat as well, according to the report.

We were surprised to find that so many IoT devices could be compromised by a simple telnet brute force password guessing attack (Mirai Bot).” McNamee said. 

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