In the Trend Micro 2016 Security Predictions report, “The Fine Line,” our CTO, Raimund Genes predicted the following: China will drive mobile malware growth to 20M by the end of 2016; globally, mobile payment methods will be attacked. Let’s discuss this and put some perspective around the information to help you understand what is happening in the mobile threat landscape.
First and foremost, we are definitely seeing a very large increase in malicious and high-risk mobile apps, mainly within the Android ecosystem. 20 million apps by the end of 2016 is a significant number and to compare it to the PC world, AV-Test.org has tracked the cumulative data of PC-based malware since 1984, and it took 21 years to reach 20 million samples. By comparison we only had 350 thousand mobile app samples at the end of 2012, and will reach 20 million in 5 years. So the threat actors are creating malicious mobile apps at an incremental rate compared to what occurred in the PC world. So we know that this attack surface (mobile devices) is a very attractive one to cyber thieves.
But are all users at risk? Not really, since what we are seeing is most of the malicious mobile apps are being developed and used in China. As the largest mobile usage region, it isn’t surprising since threat actors in China have a significant base of victims to go after. Also, since most mobile users in China do not use the Google Play store to download apps and instead use 3rd party app stores or direct downloads they are much more likely to come across malicious mobile apps as the vetting process of apps is not as rigorous as is done by Google with their Play stores. So what this means to most users outside of China is to ensure you are downloading apps from the Google Play store.
But should users still be cautious if they are using Android or Apple mobile devices? We know from previous information that both Apple iTunes and Google Play are not immune to hosting malicious apps on their stores, so users should still consider installing a mobile security app like Trend Micro Mobile Security (TMMS) on their devices as it can protect users from the bad apps that sometimes get through. The more concerning threat to these users today are phishing sites which may be delivered via emails, which have a malicious link embedded within the email or found on browsed sites. These phishing sites request information from the user via the webpage (ex. Login credentials, CC numbers, etc.) and if a user fills them out the data is sent to the hacker. These phishing pages don’t care what browser the user is accessing with, so the best protection is a mobile security app (TMMS) that includes web reputation which can block access to these malicious sites.
The other part of the prediction from Raimund is regarding mobile payments. While we have not seen the adoption of mobile payments like Apple Pay or Google Wallet, we do think more users will adopt this payment option in 2016. Even with the US requiring EMV cards by its citizens, these new mobile payment options will be an easier method of payment for mobile users. We also know the one tenant of cybercrime is that threat actors go to where the money is and so we will likely see cybercriminals look for ways to steal money from this payment process. Users who adopt this method of payment should be on the lookout for any news regarding this area of the threat landscape.
A good source is to regularly follow Trend Micro’s blogs (Simply Security, Security Intelligence) as we regularly publish information about the latest trends and hacks we’ve found or have been found by others.
This prediction was only one of seven that Raimund covered in the report. I suggest you read the entire report to get more insights into what we can expect in 2016. In the meantime, please continue to use your mobile devices smartly and stay safe.
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