One of the most prolific, and problematic trends in cyber security is the dissemination of malware. This was predominantly a computer-based issue in the old days that resulted from downloading a corrupt file or visiting an untrustworthy Web page. However, makers of malware are becoming more elaborate in their schemes, and no where is this more evident than in China.
Chinese malware wreaks havoc in 2015
In the past few months, China's cyber threat landscape has continually made headlines, and malware has been the primary delivery method for hackers. In September for example, Apple's App Store was infiltrated with malware, resulting in the contamination of approximately 4,000 apps, according to PCWorld. The cause of the infection was the use of an unauthorized version of a popular Apple development kit called Xcode. Hackers offered quicker access of the tool kit to developers in China, who jumped on the opportunity without properly vetting the source. As a result, these applications were infected upon inception, and subsequently sold to users on the App Store.
Xcode malware does not represent a one-time security fluke. Within a month of the infiltration, the App Store was again infected, this time with malware called YiSpecter. The worm downloads, installs and runs applications on iOS, according to Wired. The malware made it possible to hijack other app sessions in order to display full-screen advertisements.
It's not just iOS that has been having issues with Chinese malware. Popular online retailer Amazon is selling cheap tablets via third-party vendors with malware already installed on them, according to the International Business Times. These tablets, which have originated in China, are preloaded with a bug called Cloudsota that allows a remote user to orchestrate nefarious actions, which would blind side users who purchased the device with the impression that it was a clean slate.
More cyber threats loom over the horizon
These malware infections are only the first in what may be a flurry of future intrusions, according to new research from Trend Micro. Entitled "The Fine Line," the new research hones in on some of the cyber threats that will loom large in 2016, and malware with origins in China is among them. Trend Micro found that 13 percent of Chinese apps are malicious, despite Google Play claims to the contrary. What's more, many of China's 800 million mobile users are downloading and installing apps from unauthorized sources, propagating the proliferation of mobile malware. By the end of 2016, Trend Micro predicts that cases of mobile malware in China will hit the 20 million mark.
Furthermore, more malware opportunities are in the making as cutting-edge digital payments methods such as EMV technology and contactless pay become more widely adopted. Trend Micro points out that popular digital payment platforms such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet will have their cyber security challenged in the coming year as more users begin to adopt digital payment technologies.
Preparing for the onslaught
Trend Micro provides a note of comfort for mobile users in U.S. and other regions outside of China by noting that the majority of applications are downloaded through authorized stores such as the Apple App Store and Google Play. However, as users continue to adopt a mobile-first mentality, China's mobile malware crisis should serve as a worst-case scenario example for mobile users elsewhere in the world. This is especially true for users who work for companies that have adopted bring-your-own-device policies. Awareness will play an important role in cyber protection; users should continue to download and install apps from trusted sources, especially if they intend to work from a mobile device on an enterprise network. As more use cases for mobile devices arise, mobile security will continue to become a more pressing matter.
Learn more about how Trend Micro Antivirus can help defend against mobile malware.