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“Mobile Security: McAfee Consumer Trends Report” Reveals Sophisticated and Complex Risky Apps in 2013

McAfee Canada today announced the results of its Mobile Security: McAfee Consumer Trends Report, which documented sophisticated complex risky apps containing multifaceted scams, black market crimes, drive-by downloads, and near-field communication threats. The report identifies a new wave of techniques used by hackers to steal digital identities, commit financial fraud, and invade users’ privacy on mobile devices.

Key findings include the following:

  • Mobile devices are surpassing PCs as the preferred way to access the Internet.
  • Over the next four years, the number of people using PCs to go online will shrink by 15 million, and the number of mobile users will increase by 91 million.
  • Risky apps: Cybercriminals are going to great lengths to insert infected apps into trusted sources such as Google Play.
    • In fact, McAfee Labs found that 75 per cent of the malware-infected apps downloaded by McAfee Mobile Security users were housed in the Google Play store, and the average consumer has a one in six chance of downloading a risky app.

  • Black market activity: Criminals use botnet clients, downloaders, and rootkits sold on black markets to commit SMS and click fraud, spam distribution, data theft, or bank fraud.
  • Drive-by downloads: First seen in 2012, this type of threat fools users into downloading an app that allows criminals to access their device.
  • Near field communications (NFC): Criminals embed worms into devices, and when they are used to “tap and pay” for the next purchase, scammers collect details of the mobile wallet account.

This video presents “McAfee Mobile Security. Use it or lose it!”:

  • “McAfee Mobile Security. Without it, you’re a moving target.
  • Find out what can happen if you don’t take precautions to protect your stuff.”

PRESS RELEASE

McAfee Mobile Study Documents Sophistication and Ubiquity of Risky Apps

Fraudsters use bad apps to steal identities, commit financial fraud and breach privacy on mobile devices

MARKHAM, Ontario – February 19, 2013 – McAfee today released the results of its Mobile Security: McAfee Consumer Trends Report, which documented sophisticated and complex risky apps containing multifaceted scams, black market crimes, drive-by downloads and near-field communication threats. The report identifies a new wave of techniques used by hackers to steal digital identities, commit financial fraud and invade users’ privacy on mobile devices.

Mobile platforms have become increasingly attractive to cybercriminals as consumers live more of their digital lives on smartphones and tablets. According to industry analyst firm IDC, mobile devices are surpassing PCs as the preferred way to access the Internet, the number of people using PCs to go online will shrink by 15 million over the next four years, and the number of mobile users will increase by 91 million.1 With the mobile space becoming an incredibly enticing platform for online mischief, the complexity and volume of threats targeting consumers will continue to increase. Using its extensive global threat intelligence (GTI) network, McAfee Labs analyzed mobile security data from the last three quarters.

“Despite elevated consumer awareness of threats on mobile platforms, there is still a significant knowledge gap surrounding how and when devices become infected and the level of potential damage,” said Brenda Moretto, Canadian Consumer Sales Manager at McAfee. “Cybercriminals are exhibiting greater levels of determination and sophistication leading to more destructive, multifaceted hacks that are harder to spot, and thus warranting a greater degree of security and vigilance. Our goal in releasing this report is to help consumers understand the risks they face and learn ways they can stay safe and compute with confidence on all of their devices.”

According to a study2 from September 2012 commissioned by McAfee on Canadian online/mobile surfing habits and concerns, 85 per cent of Canadians own and use at least one smartphone and/or tablet, and 92 per cent of Canadians believe there is at least a little risk to personal identity when using a mobile device. Fifty-two (52) per cent specify a great deal or moderate amount of risk. Furthermore, 83 per cent of Canadian smartphone/tablet owners are concerned that their personal information could be stolen while using an app.

In the Mobile Security: McAfee Consumer Trends Report, McAfee Labs identifies the following threats as the most severe existing and new trends consumers will encounter in 2013:

Risky Apps: Cybercriminals are going to great lengths to insert infected apps into trusted sources such as Google Play, and the risks within each app are becoming more intricate. As a matter of fact, McAfee Labs found that 75 per cent of the malware-infected apps downloaded by McAfee Mobile Security users were housed in the Google Play store, and that the average consumer has a one in six chance of downloading a risky app. Nearly 25 per cent of the risky apps that contain malware also contain suspicious URLs, and 40 per cent of malware families misbehave in more than one way.

A risky app may allow someone to:

Ø            Steal personal information such as banking, email or wireless account details and combine that with location data to put together a complete picture of who you are

Ø            Perpetuate fraud such as an SMS scam that will charge you without your approval

Ø            Abuse a device by making it part of a criminal bot network, which allows someone to remotely control your phone

Black Market Activity: Botnet clients, downloaders and rootkits are types of generic, useful software sold on black markets as part of software toolkits. Criminals use these to commit premium SMS and click fraud, spam distribution, data theft or bank fraud – and the complexity of these criminal activities is growing. Commercial criminals are now re-using and recombining these components to devise new, profitable schemes.

Drive-by Downloads: The first mobile drive-by downloads were seen in 2012 and we expect these to increase in 2013. On a mobile device, a drive-by download fools a user into downloading an app without knowing it. Once a user opens the app, criminals have access to the device.

Near Field Communications (NFC): In 2013, we expect to see criminals abuse the tap-and-pay NFC technology used in mobile payment programs, or “digital wallets.” This scam uses worms that propagate through proximity, a process we can call “bump and infect.” The distribution path can quickly spread malware through a group of people such as in a passenger-loaded train or at an amusement park. When the newly infected device is used to “tap and pay” for the next purchase, the scammer collects the details of the wallet account and secretly reuses these credentials to steal from the wallet. Worm malware like this will spread by exploiting vulnerabilities on devices. This development would monetize the 11.8 per cent of malware families that already contain exploit behaviours.

As the mobile space evolves, criminals will look at ways to generate revenue from features only mobile devices have. During 2012, about 16 per cent of malware families detected by McAfee attempted to get devices to subscribe to premium SMS messages. In 2013, we foresee an increase in threats that will have users finding out they bought premium apps only when they check their bills.

Additional Resources:

Ø            McAfee Canada infographic on Canadian online/mobile surfing habits and concerns:

http://sawebdev.ca/mcafee/canadian_and_global_stats/online_mobile_surfing.html

Ø            Mobile Security: McAfee Consumer Trends Report from McAfee Labs:

http://www.mcafee.com/us/resources/reports/rp-mobile-security-consumer-trends.pdf

Ø            Tips on How to Stay Safe From Mobile Threats:

http://home.mcafee.com/advicecenter/Default.aspx?id=ad_ms&culture=en-us&affid=0&cid=102517

Ø            McAfee Canada maintains a websited called The State of Consumer and Enterprise Security in Canada (http://mcaf.ee/canadastats) in order to provide a one-stop shop for writers looking for information on a variety of trends and issues affecting and shaping the Canadian security landscape.

1 IDC Predictions 2013: Competing on the 3rd Platform, doc #238044, November 2012
2 McAfee 2012 Online/Mobile Shopping Habits & Security Concerns, September 2012

About McAfee
McAfee, a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), empowers businesses, the public sector and home users to safely experience the benefits of the Internet. The company delivers proactive and proven security solutions and services for systems, networks, and mobile devices around the world. With its Security Connected strategy, innovative approach to hardware-enhanced security, and unique Global Threat Intelligence network, McAfee is relentlessly focused on keeping its customers safe. http://www.mcafee.com.

McAfee Canada is headquartered in Markham, Ontario, with regional offices across Canada. The company’s Consumer Software Research and Development facility is based in Waterloo, Ontario.

Note: McAfee is a registered trademark of McAfee, Inc. in the United States and other countries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.


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