Citizens of the world are turning more and more toward performing all kinds of functions on mobile devices. We order food and pay for it from mobile devices. We shop from mobile devices. We hail transportation from them, we monitor the security of our homes from them, and we perform financial transactions from them. While having these capabilities at our fingertips is certainly convenient, it comes with added risks that we don’t experience when performing these functions person to person.

Following are the top mobile threats predicted for 2017, in no particular order:

Devices that just are not trustworthy – Earlier this year, Check Point found 36 Android devices infected with malware right out of the box. They did not get this way at initial manufacturing, but it was discovered it occurred somewhere along the supply chain. Toward the end of last year, BLU smartphones were found, also by Check Point researchers to have arrived from the manufacturer with malware installed that sent sensitive information to China.

Malicious applications – Sometimes what the apps claim to do is not exactly what they end up doing. Several apps, even in the official app stores were found to be malicious. This happens often with games. When popular games such as Pokémon Go or Super Mario Run were released, a plethora of “add on” products and fake versions of the games were also released. In May of this year, an app called “Judy” was found in the Google Play Store that was auto-clicking adware developed by a Korean company. The original code was likely sitting undetected in the official app store for over a year. It’s unknown how many people downloaded this product.

Applications that are useful, but leak information unbeknownst to us – A study by Wandera found that a surprising amount of data from our mobile devices gets leaked without our knowledge. It is released into the ether for anyone choosing to do so, to capture it. Two hundred apps were found exposing sensitive information such as user names and passwords.

Online Banking malware – This type of malware will continue to be a threat into the future, mainly because we exceedingly more often use mobile devices to perform financial transactions. Kaspersky found that in 2016, nearly half of all phishing attacks were after banking credentials, account numbers, payment card details, and/or social security numbers. Cyberthieves are becoming more adept at overlaying real banking apps with facades to capture this information. Faketoken is an example of this that is designed to mimic over 2,000 mobile financial applications just for that purpose. It can also encrypt user files.

Ransomware – In Q1 of 2017, ransomware was the most common type of malware. A recent example of ransomware made the news for several weeks was WannaCry. While it was not particularly lucrative for the cybercriminal, it managed to disrupt a lot of business. Mobile ransomware is abundant. Some experts predict an evolution of it to “ransomworms.” This is a combination of ransomware attached to a worm that can infect a lot of devices in a very short period of time.

There are some recommendations to help prevent mobile infections:

  • Keep all devices updated with the latest versions of software and patches.
  • Monitor all devices and investigate any anomalies right away.
  • Don’t sideload applications. This means downloading them from locations other than the official app stores. While no guarantee there won’t be malware in them, they do still go through extra scrutiny before being approved to load into the official stores. They are still more trustworthy than sideloaded apps.
  • Lock devices when they are not actively being used. If you cannot remember to manually lock it when you walk away from it, set it to automatically lock after a very short period of inactivity.
  • Ensure you always back up mobile devices. If malware does manage to find a way onto your smartphone or tablet, it is much better to restore a previous version than to pay attackers for a decryption code and just hope they will actually provide it. Often times, they don’t.
Donovan B. Fox © Copyright 2017 SDFCU.org