Seventy percent of all known mobile malware variants found in 2013: Kaspersky

Over 100,000 new individual malware routines for mobile devices were detected in 2013 by the cloud-based Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) alone, according to recently released statistics from the security vendor that highlight the magnitude of the current online threat and its future potential growth.

An annual analysis of KSN's activities found that the network intercepted 5.19 billion cyber-attacks on computers and mobile devices during 2013, with 1.7 billion attacks launched from online resources around the world – 45 percent of which came from the United States and Russia.

The Netherlands (12.8%) and Germany (12.51%) were the other significant sources of Web-based attacks, with figures for Great Britain (3.46%), Ukraine (2.90%), France (1.69%) and others significantly lower.

Nearly 3 billion malware attacks on users' computers were detected over the course of the year, with 1.8 million different pieces of malware and potentially unwanted programs reflected.

Malicious URLs were used in 93 percent of all Web-based attacks, with 3.37 percent reflecting the use of Trojan.Script.Generic techniques and MegaSearch adware (0.91 percent) rounding out the top three.

Particularly notable during 2013 was the emergence of mobile threats such as mobile botnets, which according to Kaspersky statistics are reflected in 60 percent of mobile malware.

Another significant threat came from mobile banking Trojans, which became smarter and stealthier during 2013 as they developed the ability to not only steal credit card information but to even interact with the mobile-banking system – for example, to check on the victim's balance to ensure maximum profit.

“Cybercriminals are watching the development of mobile banking,” the report's authors warned. “If a smartphone is successfully infected, they check whether that phone is tethered to a bank card.”

Other notable mobile infections during 2013 included the 0bad Android infection, which Kaspersky referred to as “the most versatile piece of mobile malware found to date” and a “Swiss Army knife, comprising a whole range of different [attack] tools.”

Kaspersky also noted the successful use of Google Cloud Messaging to control botnet devices, using a technique that is “impossible to block” on an infected device; and the use of Android malware that delivers malicious payloads to PCs once they are connected for syncing.

Android was the target for 98.05 percent of known mobile malware in 2013, Kaspersky's analysis showed, with 8.3 million unique malware installation packs collected to date and 104,421 (70 percent) of the company's library of 148,778 mobile malware samples found during 2013 alone.

“Fortunately, this is far from the situation we're experiencing in the PC world,” the report noted, “where we process a stream of more than 315,000 malware samples per day in our lab. Still the trend is highly visible and continuing.”

A key trend in mobile malware was the adoption of time-tested PC malware techniques to the mobile world, particularly to Android “thanks to the openness and popularity of the mobile platform,” the report noted.

Most mobile applications are designed to steal money and to steal personal data, the report noted, warning that the commonness of bots with rich feature sets was likely to see mobile botnets bought and sold on the open market “in the near future”.

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