McAfee: Malware Drawn to Android

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 @ 04:11 PM gHale

Mobile devices are gaining a stronger foothold in the manufacturing automation environment and now it seems malware targeted toward Android devices continues to surge, a new report says.

The amount of malware infecting Android devices during the third quarter grew almost 37 percent from the second quarter, according to McAfee’s “Third-Quarter Threats Report.” Android’s growing demand has made it an increasingly ripe and inviting target for cyber criminals.

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How inviting? Almost all new mobile malware over the third quarter aimed directly toward Android. Legacy software being what it is saw Nokia’s Symbian OS still attracting the greatest amount of malware.

One common scheme against Android comes from Trojans that collect personal information and steal money from the user by sending SMS messages. Another type of malware records phone conversations and sends them to the attacker.

As a result of the onslaught against Android and the growth in overall malware, McAfee now believes the industry will see 75 million unique pieces of malware by the end of the year, up from its previous forecast of 70 million. That number promises to make 2011 a record year for malware.

“This has been a very steady quarter in terms of threats, as both general and mobile malware are more prevalent than ever,” said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs. “So far this year, we’ve seen many interesting yet challenging trends that are affecting the threat landscape, including heightened levels of sophistication and high-profile hacktivist attacks.”

Phony antivirus products, AutoRun malware, and password-stealing Trojans were among the most common types of malware in the quarter, staging a rebound from previous quarters. Malware aimed at the Mac also continues to grow as Apple computers experience greater demand among consumers and businesses.

The number of botnet infections inched down over the third quarter but staged some dramatic gains in countries such as Argentina, Indonesia, Russia, and Venezuela. Cutwail, Festi, and Lethic proved to be the most dangerous and damaging botnets last quarter.

And though spam dropped in numbers since 2007, its level of sophistication continues to grow, according to McAfee. Spear phishing, or targeted spam, is increasingly the method of choice for more attackers and is proving to be a highly effective form of malware.

“The noise tells us spam levels have dropped, yet the signal we need to hear is that the bad guys have changed their tactics,” the report noted. “They are protecting their business models and are doing so with a sophistication that creates a more dangerous threat than before.”

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