The first half of this year has been quite eventful for the mobile threat landscape. Sure, we had an idea the state of affairs from 2013 would continue on to this year, but we didn’t know just to what extent. From ballooning mobile malware/high risk app numbers to vulnerabilities upon vulnerabilities, let’s recap just what happened in the past six months and see if we can learn anything from them for the six months ahead.
So, what did happen in the first half of 2014? Well, to summarize:
- 2 million and counting: After only six months of reaching 1 million, the combined amount of mobile malware/high risk apps has doubled, to 2 million. That’s a growth of 170,000 apps PER month.
- The first coin mining mobile malware: ANDROIDOS_KAGECOIN, a malicious app that turned any infected mobile device into a Bitcoin/Dogecoin/Litecoin miner was discovered in March.
- The first mobile ransomware: ANDROIDOS_LOCKER locked phones by way of obstructing screens with a large UI window. It was discovered in May.
- Deep Web: Cybercriminals also began to use TOR in their malicious apps, to cover their trails.
- Operation Emmental: last July we successfully uncovered a cybercriminal operation that countered online banking’s 2-factor authentication. We dubbed this after the famous cheese Emmental.
A handful of major vulnerabilities were also discovered during this half of 2014, ranging from the Android Custom Permission vulnerability to the iOS Goto Fail vulnerability. Platform-agnostic vulnerability Heartbleed also made the news, affecting not just desktops but basically any platform that could connect to the web and load HTTP:// websites.
Hugely-popular events were also taken advantage of by cybercriminals through social engineering – the 2014 FIFA World Cup, for example, heralded the coming of fake game apps sporting the event’s name, with each one sporting malicious routines. Flappy Bird, the addictive game that had the entire mobile gaming scene taking attention, also garnered its own share of malicious clones.
That’s the first half of 2014 in a nutshell, with the most noteworthy events encapsulated. Can we learn anything from them in time to prepare for the next six months? Yes, of course – one lesson we can easily derive here is that we can always expect cybercriminals to take advantage of legitimate services that help make our lives more convenient online – and sometimes, they use it in ways we’ll never expect them to. So we need to look at new services coming out and, after seeing if they CAN be used maliciously, prepare for that inevitability. It helps to be prepared, after all.
Another lesson for the second half of 2014 is that people need to take mobile threats much more seriously. It’s no longer just a passing fad or something we can just forget about – it’s here, it’s happening, and like social engineering it’s going to be a part of our lives until the next breakthrough in technology comes along. Users, business owners, professionals need to protect themselves from becoming a victim – and all it takes are some best practices and a security solution.
For more information regarding the mobile threat landscape and how it fared in the first half of 2014, we’d like to point readers towards the latest issue of our Monthly Mobile Report, titled The Mobile Landscape Roundup: 1H 2014. You’ll see the events summarized above, but in more detail, along with other news events and definitely a lot more stats.