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The 5 worst mobile threats of 2012

Craig Sprosts, VP, platform and applications, Nominum | Nov. 2, 2012
New types of mobile malware make headlines every day, but what are the most prevalent threats out there? The team at Nominum decided to find out by analyzing Domain Name System (DNS) data of approximately half a million users from various countries.

With multiple mobile operating systems and a vast array of devices, device-based anti-malware software alone isn't a scalable solution to the problem. The DNS enables a network-based approach for preventing malware that works regardless of what type of device is infected.

The DNS is primarily thought of as a functional technology to navigate the Web, as its original role was to facilitate ease of use of the Internet. DNS eliminates the need to type in long strings of numbers (IP addresses) to access content and translates the numbers into words. Due to its history, DNS has become an often-overlooked layer but it is essential to the network running. As network activity has advanced (think the proliferation of applications, mobile banking, etc.), the DNS layer has evolved into an efficient network infrastructure tool that guides high-performance transactions.

In the case of mobile malware threats, the DNS layer can be analyzed to detect and mitigate suspicious activity. Accordingly, solutions have been invented that enable mobile carriers to layer security applications upon their pre-existing DNS network. These applications can conduct a number of roles from detecting and thwarting hackers' efforts to alerting users of potentially dangerous mobile websites.

Compared to other solutions, utilizing the DNS layer allows for a faster response time and cost-effective options -- both important benefits to a mobile carrier and its subscribers. The DNS's ability to secure networks should be a part of the modern mobile operator's security playbook because the mobile malware problem is only going to get worse before it gets better.

Here are the top threats that we're up against:

* NOTCOMPATIBLE -- The worst of all malware created in 2012 is a drive-by Trojan which can infect Android phones via their mobile Web browsers. When a browser's download is completed, it will ask for user permission to install as depicted below. After infection, the Android phone can work as a proxy. It is widespread and growing every day. [Also see: "For the first time, hacked websites deliver Android malware"]

* SMSPACEM -- This is the second-most widespread malware for Android phones in 2012. It will change a phone's wallpaper and send anti-Christian jokes by SMS to all the user's contacts. Here is an example: "Looks like Jesus is a no-show, maybe Judaism was on to something Cannot talk right now, the world is about to end Just saw the four horsemen of the apocalypse and man did they have the worst case of road rage Prepare to meet thy maker, make sure to hedge your bet just in case the Muslims were right."

* LENA -- This Android-based malware is capable of taking over a user's phone without asking permission by using an exploit such as gingerbreak or appearing as a VPN app. Once gaining root access, LENA can start to communicate with its command an control site, download additional components and update installed binaries.

 

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