Mobile banking malware was the biggest security threat to emerge in 2013, while 98 percent of all attacks targeted the Android platform, according to new data from Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky revealed the data following new research into mobile malware in 2013. In total the firm detected 143,211 new modifications of malicious programs hitting mobile devices in 2013, compared with 46,415 found in 2012, the firm said.
Mobile banking malware was seen as the biggest rising threat, as cyber criminals see it as an easy way to make big money.
Kaspersky researchers wrote in a blog post detailing the findings: “The cyber industry of mobile malware is becoming more focused on making profits more effectively, i.e., mobile phishing, theft of credit card information, money transfers from bank cards to mobile phones and from phones to the criminals’ e-wallets."
“Cyber criminals have become obsessed by this method of illegal earnings: at the beginning of the year we knew only 67 banking Trojans, but by the end of the year there were already 1,321 unique samples.”
The graph below shows this rapid rise in mobile banking malware.
Kaspersky said the spread of mobile banking malware was being led by the use of unofficial apps and botnets "sending out text messages with a malicious link to addresses in the victim’s address book".
Concerns that mobile banking could be a major threat to consumers have been raised before by groups such as the Financial Conduct Authority and the figures from Kaspersky do little to suggest much is being done to counter this rising tide.
Currently, Russia is the main location where mobile banking is used, but this will change in 2014: "Given the cyber criminals’ interest in user bank accounts, the activity of mobile banking Trojans is expected to grow in other countries in 2014."
Unsurprisingly Android is by far the main platform targeted by crooks, with a staggering 98 percent of all attacks targeting the platform, as the chart below shows. There is no specific mention of iOS or Windows Phone.
Kaspersky said the data proved both the popularity of Android but also the "vulnerability of its architecture", as it lamented its shoddy security.
"Unfortunately, there is a specific feature of Android vulnerabilities that means it is only possible to get rid of them by receiving an update from the device manufacturers," it said.
"However, many users are in no hurry to update the operating systems of their products. If a smartphone or tablet was released more than a year ago, it is probably no longer supported by the manufacturer and patching of vulnerabilities is no longer provided."
The risks from these threats is spread across the globe, although Russia is clearly the primary target for cyber criminals, with a whopping 40 percent of all infections in the country. By contrast just 3.42 percent of infections were in the UK.
However, Kaspersky had some words of warning for mobile users around the world.
"Russia and the CIS countries often serve as a testing ground for new technologies: having perfected their technologies in the Russian-language sector of the internet, the cyber criminals then turn their attention to users in other countries."
The report mirrors findings from vendors such as Cisco, which reported in January that Android is the target of 99 percent of mobile malware while Lookout said hackers are altering mobile scams to look more legitimate so they can bypass new security measures.
Citrix claims Workspot has 'continued to mislead the market' and use Citrix-patented features
Using proven technology from wireless, coax and ADSL/VDSL communication
Touts crowding genuine fans out of the market, claims government
Users complain they haven't been able to access their accounts or withdraw money