2013 was the year that the Android malware not just grew, but matured into a full-fledged threat landscape. Not only did the number of threats grow, the sophistication and capabilities associated with these threats grew as well.
As we noted earlier, the number of mobile malware threats has crossed the one million mark, and as of the end of 2013 stood at almost 1.4 million malicious and high-risk apps. We believe that by the end of 2014, this number will be at over 3 million.
Figure 1. Volume of malicious and high-risk apps
Not only are there more threats, the threats are becoming more diverse. No longer are mobile-centric cybercriminals content with just premium service abuse; the proportion of mobile malware with some sort of information-stealing ability grew from 17% at the start of 2013 to almost a quarter by year’s end. Overall, about a fifth of all mobile malware had some sort of information theft capability.
Figure 2. Mobile malware threat type distribution
New threats and problems also reared their head in 2013. We saw a tenfold growth of one-click billing fraud apps; these apps attempt to register users for paid services that they would normally not be interested in. In addition, we also saw a serious vulnerability – the “master key” vulnerability - which put almost all Android users at risk of installed apps being modified by attackers to include malicious code. Malicious mobile sites also made an appearance in 2013.
Looking forward to 2014
These developments will continue into 2014 and make the mobile threat landscape more closely resemble the PC landscape, which is already well-developed and sophisticated. Mobile threats will continue to grow in number and become, in effect, “mass-produced”. In addition, we expect to see more obfuscated and native code in an attempt to evade detection by anti-malware solutions.
Our complete look back at the 2013 mobile threat landscape, and our view of what 2014 may turn out to be, can be found in our latest Monthly Mobile Report, titled Beyond Apps.