Mobile Devices

February 20, 2013

Report: McAfee's Mobile Security Consumer Trends Highlight Serious Threats for Mobile Devices

Security is the one common issue that has most mobile users worried, and even though most understand the risks, mobile use is still rising at very fast rate, penetrating without fail in many countries around the world.

Mobile security is software designed to protect your device and data from being attacked, and just like other protection schemes for desktops and servers, it can be breached. The key is finding the vulnerabilities and fortifying them to make it too hard for the hacker.

The Mobile Security: McAfee Consumer Trends Report goes into detail about the threats and the protective measures a user can adopt to ensure their safety while on mobile devices.

According to the report, the risk of using mobile devices is increased by “sophisticated and complex risky apps containing multifaceted scams, black market crimes, drive-by downloads and near-field communication threats.” If you have a smart device or know someone that does, the time spent on the device is used to download apps, conduct purchases with or without Near Field Communication (NFC), access social media and generally stay online.

Cybercriminals now know people are living on their mobile devices and therefore valuable information that can be exploited for financial gain is stored on them. This space is becoming the preferred target as PC use declines; mobile is increasing at an almost five-to-one ratio over the next four years.

The report by McAfee used its Global ThreatIntelligence (GTI) network to analyze mobile security data over the past three quarters. Some of the risks a user will encounter are:

  • Risky Apps – The lengths to which cybercriminals will go to infect apps in trusted sites are amazing. Google Play had 75 percent of the malware-infected apps downloaded by McAfee Mobile Security. These programs have suspicious URLs and the malware misbehaves in more than one way; they’re becoming more intricate, making them harder to detect and eradicate.
  • Black Market Activity – “Commercial criminals” are becoming more organized and creating more powerful botnet clients, downloaders and rootkits. These are generic types of software used on the black market as part of software toolkits. They’re used for crimes in data theft, bank fraud, spam distribution and SMS and click fraud.
  • Drive-by Downloads – This type of scheme prays on the ignorance of the user by fooling him/her into downloading an application without knowing it. When the user opens the app, the device can be accessed, suggesting a very important point: if you don’t know where the app came from, delete it.
  • Near Field Communications (NFC) – While this technology will offer the most convenience for consumers, it’s also one of the most lucrative sources for cybercriminals. Using methods known as “bump and infect,” it is possible to gain access to a group of people in one location with worms that propagate through proximity. Once the device has been compromised, it’s possible to tap out any available funds associated with the device. The report went on to say 11.8 percent of the malware families with exploitive behaviors out there can be developed to be monetized for this type scam.

“Despite elevated consumer awareness of threats on mobile platforms, there is still a significant knowledge gap surrounding how and when devices become infected and the level of potential damage,” said Brenda Moretto, Canadian Consumer Sales Manager at McAfee. “Cybercriminals are exhibiting greater levels of determination and sophistication leading to more destructive, multifaceted hacks that are harder to spot, and thus warranting a greater degree of security and vigilance. Our goal in releasing this report is to help consumers understand the risks they face and learn ways they can stay safe and compute with confidence on all of their devices.”

The key to understanding the vulnerability of your mobile device is thinking of it as your home. You never leave your door open so strangers can come in, and if you happen to see someone you’ve never met in your house, you don’t offer them your guest bedroom. You have to look at every app in your device as a stranger until you know for a fact it isn’t, no matter how benign it looks.

Edited by Braden Becker

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