November - 2015 - issue > In My Opinion

Ransomware on Android & Infiltrated iOS: F-Secure Reports Attacks on Mobile Wallets & Virtual Currencies on Rise

Amit Nath, Country Manager, India & SAARC, F-Secure
Monday, December 14, 2015
Amit Nath, Country Manager, India & SAARC, F-Secure
Are smartphones the most lucrative target for cyber criminals? The answer has to be a resounding 'Yes', due to multiple reasons. One, smartphone growth is booming, especially in emerging markets like India. A recent Ericsson report on mobility highlights that the total number of mobile subscriptions in Q1 2015 was around 7.2 billion, including 108 million new subscriptions. India grew the most (followed by China) in terms of net additions (26 million) mobile subscribers. Globally, smartphone subscriptions are set to more than double by 2020.

If you are a cybercriminal, you would undoubtedly be thrilled at the opportunity. You would also be thrilled as most smartphones do not have the same level of security when compared to traditional PCs. Mobile devices are naturally the new frontier. Attacks that have proved successful on PCs are now being tested on unwitting mobile device users to see what works and with the number of mobile devices with poor protection soaring, there are plenty of easy targets.

A recent report by F-Secure confirms this trend. Our Threat Report (H2, 2014) highlights that the growth of SMS sending Trojans and ransomware attacks on mobile wallets and virtual currencies on the rise . Both Android & iOS have experienced malware which have tried to attack the banking applications and mobile wallets in H2, 2014.
Cyber threats, including those targeting mobile devices, are directly linked to cybercrime. In most developed countries, creating and distributing malicious software is a criminal offence. Although such criminal acts are perpetrated in virtual environments, their victims lose real assets, such as personal data and money.

In the current scenario, threats locking the user's data and/or device for payment are continuously growing. Ransomware is one such threat that uses encryption or similar kind of mechanism to lock people out of their devices. Criminals use ransomware to extort people by locking them out of their devices unless they pay a ransom. Due to virtual currencies, it's becoming a lot easier for criminals to use ransomware, making it more profitable and more useful for them. But surprisingly, ransomware developers have created safeguards to ensure their malware doesn't infect the same victims again after they have paid a ransom. For end users, ransomware is today the most prominent kind of digital threat.

While Google's Android operating system continues to be the favored target for majority of mobile malware, threats directed towards iOS exist but there are far fewer of them. But this doesn't mean that iOS for Apple iPhone or iPads are immune. The number of documented vulnerabilities for iOS has increased significantly in the last couple of years. Co-incidentally, both Android and iOS have experienced malware which have tried to attack the banking applications and mobile wallets in recent times.

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