Nokia: Smartphones Now Biggest Source Of Network Malware

Smartphones have pulled ahead of Windows-based PCs as the dominant attack platforms for malware on mobile networks.

Nokia Security Center Berlin made the claim in a new report, which also states that even though Android remains the worst mobile platform for security, Apple’s iOS is not longer immune.

The research found that smartphones have now pulled ahead of Windows-based computers and laptops, and account for 60 percent of the malware activity observed in the mobile space.

Smartphone Source

The Nokia Threat Intelligence report examines trends and statistics for malware infections in devices connected through mobile and fixed networks.

Looking at the market as a whole, the report found that due to a decrease in adware activity, the overall infection rate in mobile networks declined from 0.75 percent to 0.49 percent on Windows-based PCs connected to the Internet via a mobile network in the second half of 2015.

But smartphone infection rates increased and now account for 60 percent of infections detected in the mobile networks. That said, 40 percent of the malware activity is still attributable to Windows PCs and laptops connected via dongles or tethered through phones, as cybercriminals still have a “huge investment in the Windows malware ecosystem.”

Android continues to be the main mobile platform targeted, but for the first time iOS-based malware – including XcodeGhost (fourth) and FlexiSpy (fourteen) – has entered the top 20 list.

According to Nokia in October 2015 alone, iPhone malware represented 6 percent of total infections. By December 2015, 0.3 percent of smartphone devices exhibited signs of malware infection.

And it seems that mobile malware is becoming more sophisticated, and is nowadays “very difficult to uninstall and can even survive a factory reset.”

The researchers warned that ransomware has now migrated from holding Windows PCs users to ransom onto the Android OS, with several varieties attacking the open source platform in 2015. Last September for example, Zscaler discovered a nasty piece of Android ransomware in the form of the Adult Player app. This app was not available to download from the Android app store but had to be accessed from other sites, and appeared to offer pornographic videos.

Mobile Threats

“Security is a very real concern for any device with an IP address, be it Android, iPhone or even a Windows PC connected to the mobile network,” said Kevin McNamee, head of the Nokia Threat Intelligence Lab.

“While Android infections continue to rise and become more sophisticated, the Nokia Threat Intelligence Report from late 2015 was the first time we saw iOS malware make our top 20 list, with XcodeGhost being the fourth most prevalent malware detected. We also saw a rise in a variety of ransomware apps that try to extort money by claiming to have encrypted the phone’s data.”

The most frequent threats to mobile users are data theft and SMS spying, said Nokia. It found that that the highest risk is device data theft (IMEI) with 29 percent of infected devices, followed by private data theft with 25 percent and short message service (SMS) spying with 21 percent.

For mobile operators, the biggest threat to their mobile to their infrastructure comes from command-and-control (C&C)-based attacks (botnets etc) originating from mobile devices. Indeed, 29 percent of infected devices have been found to be infected with malware using C&C servers.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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