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New Mobile Malware Attacks Focus on Android Devices
New Mobile Malware Attacks Focus on Android Devices

By Barry Levine
August 24, 2011 2:00PM

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Android has become a favorite mobile target for malware authors, McAfee says. Symbian and Java ME are also favorite targets for hackers. McAfee also reported the first fake Mac antivirus software, but it expects fake antivirus software to decrease over time. With mobile malware increasing, a favored technique is infecting mobile apps.
 


Android is now big enough to own some dubious distinctions. A new report indicates that Google's open-source platform has moved into third place as "the most attacked platform for mobile malware." If one counts the number of new malware attacks, Android takes first place, followed by Symbian and Java ME.

The report from security firm McAfee said the malware targeted at Android devices increased 76 percent since the last quarter. It also noted several other malware milestones, including the first appearance of fake Mac antivirus software and a "significant" increase in rootkits.

'Record-Breaking Numbers'

In spite of the fake Mac software, a direct result of Macs' increased popularity, McAfee said it expects fake antivirus software in general to decrease over time.

At the rate of increase for malware, the firm said, there might be a record 75 million unique samples in its "zoo" collection by the end of this year, based on results so far.

Vincent Wafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs, said the year so far has seen "record-breaking numbers of malware, especially on mobile devices," and directly in proportion to the devices' increase in popularity. One of the most favored techniques is infecting apps so users download and spread the malware themselves.

Other trends, he said, include attacks that are stealthier and more sophisticated, which could mean some attacks go unnoticed for a substantial period of time. Stealth attacks have increased more than 38 percent over last year.

Acts of Cyberwar

There's also been an increase in attacks by hacktivist groups, which intend to send a message, rather than seeking personal gain. McAfee noted that there were at least 20 such attacks globally in the second quarter alone, with most attributed to Lulz Security, known as LulzSec, and some to the Anonymous hacker groups.

Anonymous' lesser activity is attributed to a split in the group in early May, with the Anonops network going down after the web-site coadministrator undertook what an Anonymous press release described as a "coup d'etat."

LulzSec was born at the beginning of May, but other groups have also formed with names like Team Web Ninjas, The A-Team, and Teamp0ison, and group-against-group online battles are common. The hacktivist attacks, the report said, make clear that "many companies, both large and small, are more vulnerable than they have suspected." There were also acts of what the report described as cyberwar on the U.S. Oak Ridge National Laboratory and on South Korea's National Agricultural Cooperative Federation.

Interestingly, the report found that spam is at "historic low levels," in part because of the breakup of a major botnet ring, but McAfee expects a sharp rise in the near future.
 

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