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NQ Mobile’s First Half of 2014 Top Mobile Malware Trends

September 7, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt

As wireless mobile users, one our greatest threats are malware – when you are out on the internet, you are exposed to hackers and infiltration into our devices.  According to a recent study by NQ Mobile’s first half 2014 findings – from NQ Mobile’s Security Labs – the trends on mobile malware is on the rise, doubling year after year.  They released an Infographic showing the highlights on their study – see below – and their findings are quite disturbing on how such threats put our sensitive data and bank accounts at risk. The key statistics to come out of this study show that 85,970 new pieces of malware were discovered – a 68-percent increase over the first half of 2013.  In NQ Mobile’s database of 136 million active users worldwide, 37.5 million Android devices were infected with malware – a 78.6-percent increase over the first half of 2103.  The malware that can infect categories that can drive financial gain, accounts for 62-percent of malware and 11-percent of threats can leak personal or private data, which can be sold via the “dark web.”

NQ Mobile discovered a new strain of malware called “ransomware” – named because they hold your information for ‘ransom.’  This new strain dubbed “Simpelocker,” is a Trojan packed in a genuine Android App download with the APK file from a third-party market.  Once the app is installed, it could request permissions for a variety of actions – writing to external storage devices or scan the SD card for specific file types (.jpeg, .doc., .gif, etc.) and attempt to encrypt them. One other finding that comes as no surprise is that profitability drives the malware motive – 62-percent of the malware during the first half of 2014 were financially beneficial to the cyber-criminals  For example, “Trick Connector” causes unsuspecting users to send premium SMS messages incurring a charge and “Stealth Subscribe” would sign up unsuspecting users for services that will hit them with small, recurring charges to their accounts.

We have heard and seen the privacy issues in recent news broadcasts concerning private photos being released, and this has put the spotlight directly on privacy threats from data theft.  In the first half of 2014, 11-percent of mobile threats came from malicious apps with the ability to gather and leak personal information.  This type of information is often sold on the “dark web” to cybercriminals to use for financial gains. During the first half of 2014, the NQ Security Center captured and quarantined what they call the “Fake Play,” which can actually masquerade as the Google Play Store.  This fake App can run in the background and intercept and upload user’s messages, contacts and App data.

The most pressing issue are the server-side botnets – they can remotely control the infected device…for example, “Text Thief,” would automatically load and unpack a program that could block text messages from designated numbers and send unauthorized messages to paid subscription services…charging your account money. Two of the reasons that Android finds itself is so much under attack – first it is the number one operating system in the world…making it an easier and more inviting target.  Secondly, Android is the operating system of choice – due to the low-end devices being sold – in emerging nations and many of those countries have unregulated App Markets and many uneducated customers when it is concerning malicious Apps.  Education and control will eventually help lower the stats as both Android and customers mature in the knowledge of malware. Please hit us up on our Google+ Page and let us know if you have been a victim of malware or if you use an antivirus program…as always, we would love to hear from you.

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