Security firms see rise in smartphone cyber-attacks

Sep 07, 2012 by Glenn Chapman
Cyber-crooks are increasingly taking aim at smartphones, following their prey as lifestyles migrate to Internet-linked mobile devices, according to new reports by online security firms.

Cyber-crooks are increasingly taking aim at smartphones, following their prey as lifestyles migrate to Internet-linked mobile devices, according to new reports by online security firms.

Symantec's annual Norton Cybercrime Report released calculated that such crimes cost worldwide consumers $110 billion in the past year, with an increase in attacks on mobile devices and .

"Cybercriminals are changing their tactics to target fast-growing and social networks where consumers are less aware of security risks," said Norton Internet safety advocate Marian Merritt.

Lookout estimated that millions of dollars have been stolen from people worldwide during the past year using smartphone "malware," with a "toll fraud" virus proving to be a popular tool.

Toll fraud programs prompt smartphones to send bogus premium text messages, charges for which are added to bills. The money winds up in the pockets of the people responsible for the infections.

Toll fraud malware is designed to hide what it is doing, and charges can go unnoticed in complex mobile service billing statements, according to Lookout senior product manager Derek Halliday.

Lookout, which has more than 25 million subscribers to its service, said that in the past 12 months the amount of toll fraud viruses found on devices climbed from 29 percent to 62 percent.

"The mobile malware industry has matured and become a viable business model," Halliday said. "Toll fraud is the most prevalent type of malware."

Photo illustration. Cyber-crooks are increasingly taking aim at smartphones, following their prey as lifestyles migrate to Internet-linked mobile devices, according to new reports by online security firms.

The likelihood of being infected was highest in Eastern Europe, Russia, and China, where smartphone users get "apps" from unofficial sources instead of trusted outlets such as Apple or online shops, according to Lookout.

Infected apps may be made available free at , discussion forums, or through links sent in messages or posted on social networks.

"There are entire systems developed to aid distribution of this malware," Halliday said.

"The bad guys are really focusing on improving and scaling their distribution techniques. They are even gaming legitimate app systems."

Cyber-criminals also create programs to boost ratings of tainted apps to make them more appealing to unsuspecting smartphone users.

Websites booby-trapped with malicious code remain the most common means of attack.

Aside from toll fraud, there is "adjacking," in which hackers take a popular application and change segments of its code so that they reap the benefit of advertising.

"When we look at the data, 12 months ago we saw a lot of evidence of experimentation that indicated malware developers were looking to see what stuck," Halliday said.

"With toll fraud they have found a business model that seems to be working; now they are trying to find a distribution model."

Nearly a third of smartphone users have received a text message from a stranger asking them to click on an embedded link or dial an unfamiliar number, according to the Norton findings.

One in five online adults told of being a cybercrime victim at a social network or on a mobile device, the Norton report found.

"We do believe it is possible to be safe on ," Halliday said.

"It is all about using caution when downloading apps, paying close attention to what you click on, and watching for the same kinds of threats seen on personal computers."

Explore further: Android gains in US, basic phones almost extinct

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Lookout beefs up smartphone defenses

Jun 15, 2011

Lookout Mobile Security on Wednesday began protecting smartphones from tricksters and booby-trapped websites as people increasingly access the Internet on the go.

Cyber crooks cranking out new weapons experts warn

May 23, 2012

Cyber criminals are cranking out new weapons at a brisk pace, tailoring malicious software for a spectrum of gadgets including smartphones, tablets, and Macintosh computers, a security firm said.

Your smartphone: a new frontier for hackers

Aug 08, 2011

(AP) -- Hackers are out to stymie your smartphone. Last week, security researchers uncovered yet another strain of malicious software aimed at smartphones that run Google's popular Android operating system. ...

Recommended for you

Android gains in US, basic phones almost extinct

12 hours ago

The Google Android platform grabbed the majority of mobile phones in the US market in early 2014, as consumers all but abandoned non-smartphone handsets, a survey showed Friday.

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

Apr 17, 2014

( —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Microsoft CEO is driving data-culture mindset

Apr 16, 2014

( —Microsoft's future strategy: is all about leveraging data, from different sources, coming together using one cohesive Microsoft architecture. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Tuesday, both in ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

( —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...