Lookout Points To Ransomware Threat As UK Mobile Malware Declines

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

New report highlights growing awareness of cyber and mobile security, as tactics and threats change

Cybersecurity firm Lookout says the UK witnessed a decrease in mobile malware during 2014, bucking the global trend, but has warned of an evolving threat landscape for mobile users, with increasingly sophisticated threats and tactics from criminals.

The UK’s decrease in mobile malware was helped by slowing down the spread of premium-rate SMS scams, thanks to action from both industry regulators and the mobile security industry.

The British however tend to be one of the most targeted regions for this “chargeware” (UK 11 percent, US 4 percent, France 9 percent, Germany 7 percent), although the global trend is an overall decline.

Threat Assessment

Android malware vampireLookout warned that the most prevalent trend this past year has been the increase in new mobile threat tactics, such as ransomware. Last year for example, researchers discovered Android ransomware that encrypted the user’s content on their mobile device before demanding a ransom payment so the victim can regain access to their files.

The firm also says that threats have become more sophisticated, as criminals react to a growing clampdown by mobile operators, as firms are now employing better countermeasures and cracking down on premium rate SMS abuse.

Even more worrying however is the warning from Lookout that mobile threats such as DeathRing and a new variant of Mouabad indicates a compromise in the mobile supply chain itself, as malware becomes pre-loaded on factory shipped devices.

The prevalence of Adware meanwhile fell dramatically in 2014 thanks to the efforts of Google and that it looks like that form of attack could lose its crown as the most commonly encountered mobile threat.

Dangerous Android?

Geographically speaking, the United States seems to have the worst of it in the past year, as mobile malware in that region grew a staggering 75 percent compared to 2013. The UK meanwhile saw both malware and chargeware rates drop, although they remain “significant” threats.

“The success of ransomware in the United States (where it largely drove a 75 percent tear-on-year increase in malware) and Western Europe indicated that when thwarted, mobile attackers will innovate and pivot to maintain an edge,” concluded Lookout.

Last year, F-Secure warned that almost all new mobile threats targeted Android. It also warned that the mobile malware landscape was becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated.

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