Smartphone infections double, hotspots are also a trouble area

One out of every 120 smartphones had a malware infection during an April test period, a lab reveals. Android devices were hit the hardest.

Smartphone infections double, hotspots are also a trouble area
Credit: Steve Sauer

Malware infection rates on smartphones have been rapidly escalating, says an endpoint security solutions provider.

Over 1.06 percent of devices in April, were infected by some variant of malware. That’s an all-time high. Nokia’s twice-a-year report, released last week says it’s found that infections doubled in the first half of 2016, compared with the second half of 2015.

The Nokia Threat Intelligence lab includes “ransomware, spy-phone applications, SMS Trojans, personal information theft and aggressive adware” in its malware definition.

Android got pummeled. Three-fourths of all infections were discovered on the Android mobile OS. For comparison “Windows/PC Systems” attracted 22 percent and Apple’s iOS only 4 percent.

Games contaminating Android devices

More bad news for Android is that its app ecosphere became significantly more infected over the period, the lab says. Nokia says it’s seen a 75 percent surge in contaminated apps there. Blighted apps, which it records in a malware database, shot up from 5.1 million in December 2015 to a staggering 8.9 million by July. Games are thought to be the “key conduit,” the security experts say in their press release.

Nokia’s data is obtained from networks where its Nokia NetGuard Endpoint Security solution is deployed. That’s a network-based solution that doesn’t just cover mobile (as one might imagine based on the name); it also covers fixed setups and looks at Nokia customers’ subscribers’ endpoint devices. That includes laptops, phones and Internet of Things (IoT), Nokia explains in its report.

Its “solution is deployed in major fixed and mobile networks around the world, monitoring network traffic from more than 100 million devices,” it claims.

So, it also sees DDoS attacks, which it believes are hitting mobile Wi-Fi hotspots hard now.

“In 2016, DNS DDoS amplification attack activity continues to leverage devices in the mobile network, particularly mobile Wi-Fi hotspots that respond to recursive DNS requests from the internet,” Nokia says.

In terms of fixed residential networks, which it also monitors, it saw a slight increase in infections due to adware. That overall monthly infection rate averaged 12 percent in the first half of 2016, compared to 11 percent in the second half of 2015. Malware on Windows machines, including laptops, and infections on smartphones using Wi-Fi networks contributed.

In other observations, “high-level threats such as a bots, rootkits, keyloggers and banking trojans remain steady at around 6 percent.”

3 Trojans caused the most damage

But it was the Kasandra, SMSTracker and UaPush Android Trojan viruses that infected the smartphones in April, and it was those that contributed to the “significant increase in smartphone infections.” The three threats made up almost half of all mobile defilements (47 percent).

Brand new malware threats are not slowing either. A number of new villains came on stream in 2016 and jumped into high Top 20 positions, such as Android.BankingTrojan.Marcher.A, coming from nowhere with 8.6 percent of infections—thrusting it into position five this year. That’s just behind number four positioned Android.Trackware.AndrClicker.D at 11.98 percent.

And although games were the principal miscreants, IoT also transgressed.

“Attackers are targeting a broader range of applications and platforms, including popular mobile games and new IoT devices, and developing more sophisticated and destructive forms of malware,” says Kevin McNamee, head of the Nokia Threat Intelligence Lab, in the release.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

Must read: Hidden Cause of Slow Internet and how to fix it
View Comments
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies