In 2019 the Threat is “Everywhere Malware”, Not just Mobile Malware

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This time last year, we said that 2018 would be the year of mobile malware.

Today at MWC, we’re calling 2019 the year of everywhere malware.

In their quest for profit, criminals are constantly forced to shift their tactics and adapt to a changing mobile market. Take crypto-mining, for example. A year ago this was a relatively hassle-free way of making money. But the bottom dropped out of the crypto-currency market over the course of 2018. Now it’s not as lucrative, so we witness more aggressive forms of ransomware that make payment more likely.

Our latest Mobile Threat Report has revealed a huge increase in backdoors, fake apps and banking Trojans. Hidden apps are being exploited as quickly as app stores can take them down and adversaries are adapting and developing new threats. The number of attacks on other connected things is growing too – your voice assistant might even be letting criminals into your home. And smartphones, of course, remain a prime target.

In particular, the use of banking Trojans to steal financial credentials has exploded. Their popularity is growing so fast that we saw the number of incidents double between June and September last year. They then spiked by a further 75 percent in December. Android users in particular are being targeted, as malware authors find new ways of bypassing Google’s security. Unfortunately for consumers, these Trojans represent a solid source of income for cybercriminals so, for the foreseeable future at least, we can expect them to continue to evolve and become more sophisticated.

A worrying new trend sees attacks extending beyond mobile apps and operating systems and into our homes. Smart home tech is becoming integral to our domestic lifestyle – there are already over 25 million voice assistants such as Google Home and Alexa in our homes, and this is expected to grow to as many as 275 million within the next five years. Add to this a growing number of connected thermostats, locks and doorbells, and this represents a huge – and hugely attractive – attack vector for cybercriminals. The quirks and vulnerabilities of these devices, coupled with weak to non-existent security controls could provide unfettered access to the rest of your home network.

At the heart of all of this, of course, lies the smartphone. The control hub and gateway to the voice assistants and smart devices we engage with on a day-to-day basis, these devices track where we are, what we’re doing, and often hold important personal information. Access to our smartphones is clearly worth its weight in gold to criminals. After all, from here they steal our bank details and even make their way into our homes. And with new malware families especially designed to trick smartphone users into giving them access, that’s just what they’re trying to do.

The mobile ecosystem is continually changing. Operators and developers can get wise to tactics used by criminals but criminals will never give up in their pursuit for profit. If one door closes on them, they’ll just open another one. They’ll change their tactics and broaden their efforts to target more aspects of our increasingly ubiquitous mobile use.

That’s why the entire tech industry, from the manufacturers of smart device manufacturers and mobile devices to developers and app store owners, must work more closely. Only then will we be able to tackle this insidious threat and protect consumers at every point of their increasingly digital life.

To find out more, see our latest Mobile Threat Report here.

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