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Ransomware and Android become tastiest targets for cyber crooks

21 Aug 2013
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Ransomware and banking-focused mobile malware are cyber criminals' new must-have items, according to security provider McAfee.

McAfee reported seeing a marked spike in the number of ransomware and mobile banking attacks active in the wild in its Second Quarter Threat Report [PDF]. The McAfee report highlighted ransomware as the fastest-growing attack type, revealing that the number of computer-hijacking malware detected has more than doubled in the last four months.

"Ransomware has become an increasing problem during the last several quarters, and the situation continues to worsen. The number of new, unique samples this quarter is greater than 320,000, more than twice as many as last quarter. During the past two quarters we have catalogued more ransomware than in all previous periods combined," read the report.

McAfee said the growth is unsurprising as ransomware offers criminals a variety of powers and ways to make money.

"One reason for ransomware's growth is that it is a very efficient means for criminals to earn money because they use various anonymous payment services. This method of cash collection is superior to that used by fake AV products, for example, which must process credit card orders for the fake software," said the report.

"Another reason is that an underground ecosystem is already in place to help with services such as pay-per-install on computers that are infected by other malware, such as Citadel, and easy-to-use crime packs are available in the underground market. These advantages mean that the problem of ransomware will not disappear anytime soon."

McAfee also reported seeing a marked spike in active mobile malware, confirming it discovered 17,000 new variants during the period. "Halfway through 2013 we have already collected almost as many mobile malware samples as in all of 2012. Will the count double by the end of the year? That much and more, we expect. This quarter we added more than 17,000 Android samples to our database," read the report.

The company said the Android malware discovered are designed for a variety of purposes, including espionage and theft. McAfee listed a pair of sophisticated banking-focused attacks as being particularly problematic as they can bypass most banks' two-factor authentication defence measures.

"Attackers seeking to bypass two-factor authentication need to get that text message sent by the banks. Once the attacker has stolen a username and password from a victim's PC, the thief needs only to get the user to install SMS-forwarding malware. A pair of malware, Android/FakeBankDropper.A and Android/FakeBank.A, take the standard SMS forwarder malware a step further," read the report.

"Normally we advise users to employ only the official app provided by their banks for any online banking. Android/FakeBankDropper.A counters that defence by replacing the bank's official app with Android/FakeBank.A. While the victims think they have the original app installed, the attacker logs into the users' accounts to get the latest SMS from the bank."

Ransomware and mobile malware have been a growing problem for businesses, with security firms all reporting seeing an ever-increasing sea of new attacks using the tools. Most recently, Kaspersky researchers reported detecting 100,000 mobile malware variants during the second quarter of 2013, in the firm's latest IT Threat Evolution report.

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Alastair Stevenson

Alastair has worked as a reporter covering security and mobile issues at V3 since March 2012. Before entering the field of journalism Alastair had worked in numerous industries as both a freelance copy writer and artist.

View Alastair's Google+ profile

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