Mobile Malware on the Rise, Windows No Longer Preferred Platform for Attacks

Symantec has issued an alert this week that acknowledges a shift in in targets for online attackers. While Windows has traditionally been the bigest target of malware and other attacks, mobile platforms are now the preferred targets for malware makers. These include Symbian, Android and iOS. The latest report from the security solutions provider is in line with last year’s Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR) from the same company, where it explored the flaws and vulnerabilities of mobile platforms, particularly through social engineering methods and phishing scams.

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An example would be Android malware masqueraded as legitimate apps and content, such as Opfake, which have become regular disturbance for Android users. A recently-discovered Trojan called “Flashback” had successfully infected around 600,000 Mac OS X devices. The variant called OSX.Flashback.K has resulted in copycat threats, and seems to have broken the Mac’s longtime reputation of being a secure platform.

Along with the rising trend in mobile use, the threats also increase significantly. In May 2011, there were 11 new Android threat families identified. After a year, there are now 30 classes, which make nearly a threefold increase year-to-year.

“W32/Flamer” is the latest threat identified, primary targeting individuals and corporations from the Middle East. Flamer — also known as Flame or Skywiper — was suspected to have existed since 2010. According to Symantec’s analysis, the most complex piece of malware is sized at 20 megabytes, is considered a general-purpose spying tool specifically developed for cyber-espionage, and the copying of all types of information from targeted devices.

Symantec has issued another big warning, with the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in London this year. Spammers are predicted to take advantage of this major event by sending emails asking for participation, pretending to be liaison officers, coordinators, partners, and many more. Symantec foresees more and more lottery scams, which are likely to employ more sophisticated tactics.

Notable statistics revealed include the ratio email spam globally, which is now at 67.8% — a grwoth of rising 3.3%, Meawhile, emails that contain malware has risen 0.03 percentage points. Two Asia Pacific countries, India and China, rank as the first and the fifth as the world’s most spammed regions, with a spam rate of 77.0% and 72.5% respectively. In Australia, one in 335 emails contained malicious content, while for Japan the rate was one in 2,036, compared with one in 709.7 in Singapore.

Meanwhile, we see a slightly different trend in phishing cases. Phishing — or email meant to fool people into giving personal or password details — has decreased, and is now at 0.27% worldwide. In Australia, the activity accounted for one in 867.8 emails and one in 2,310 in Hong Kong. For Japan it was one in 5,525 and one in 2,072 for Singapore. In the case of websites, there are around 4,360 malicious sites blocked daily.

The study gathered data through the Global Intelligence Network, and was generated from more than 64.6 million attack sensors and thousands of events per second. This monitors attack activity in more than 200 countries and territories through a suite of products and services.