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Mobile malware attacks double in 2018, as cybercriminals sharpen their distribution strategies

In the cybersecurity company’s global ranking, the Philippines placed in the 10th spot with 26.81% users of Kaspersky Lab solutions attacked by mobile malware. The list is topped by Iran (44.24%), Bangladesh (42.98%) and Nigeria (37.72%), respectively.

Despite more devices being attacked, the number of malware files has decreased, leading researchers to conclude that the quality of mobile malware has become more impactful and precise. These and other findings are revealed in Kaspersky Lab’s Mobile Malware Evolution 2018 report.

The channels through which malware is delivered to users and infects their devices are a key part of the success of a malicious campaign today, taking advantage of users who do not have any security solutions installed on their phones.

The success of the distribution strategies is demonstrated not only by the increase in attacks, but also the number of unique users that have encountered malware. In 2018, this figure rose by 774,000 on the previous year to 9,895,774 affected users.

Among the threats encountered, the most significant growth was in the use of Trojan-Droppers, whose share almost doubled from 8.63% to 17.21%. A Trojan-Dropper is a Matryoshka-like program, a type of malware designed to bypass system protection and deliver there all sorts of malware, from banking Trojans to ransomware.

Kaspersky Lab researchers also found out that virus writers focused last year on:

1. attacks on bank accounts via mobile devices
2. apps that can be used by cybercriminals to cause damage (i.e., RiskTool), and
3. adware apps

“In 2018, mobile device users faced what could have been the fiercest cybercriminal onslaught ever seen. Over the course of the year, we observed both new mobile device infection techniques, such as DNS hijacking, along with an increased focus on enhanced distribution schemes, like SMS spam. This trend demonstrates the growing need for mobile security solutions to be installed on smartphones – to protect users from device infection attempts, regardless of the source,” said Viсtor Chebyshev, security expert at Kaspersky Lab.

“Along with the world’s mobility comes the ubiquitousness of smartphones. We see cybercriminals shifting their focus more on how they distribute malware and use attack vectors, while we continuously innovate to make the transfer, storage, and management of money and data electronically possible and extremely dynamic. Now mobile devices double as mobile wallets and portable storage which have been transformational in how we do business and carry out our day-to-day tasks. This, however, could backfire against us with cybercriminals getting hold of our own money and data if we can’t secure our devices and everything we keep in it,” said Yeo Siang Tiong, General Manager at Kaspersky Lab Southeast Asia.

“Filipinos are known worldwide for being highly active online. With a projected 2M growth to its current 61M unique mobile population, we expect that Filipino users will continue to embrace the digital lifestyle which seriously calls for heightened accountability over the device and every single peso and data stored in it,” added Yeo.

Other findings in the mobile malware evolution 2018 report include:

● In 2018, Kaspersky Lab products protected 80,638 users in 150 countries against mobile ransomware, with 60,176 mobile ransomware Trojans samples detected
● In 2018, a fivefold increase in attacks using mobile malicious cryptocurrency miners was observed
● In 2018, 151,359 installation packages for mobile banking Trojans were detected, which is 1.6 times more than in the previous year

In order to protect your devices, Kaspersky Lab security experts advise the following:

● Only install mobile applications from official app stores, such as Google Play on Android devices or the App Store on iOS
● Block the installation of programs from unknown sources in your smartphone’s settings
● Do not bypass device restrictions as this might provide cybercriminals with limitless capabilities to carry out their attacks
● Install system and application updates as soon as they are available — they patch vulnerabilities and keep devices protected. Note that the mobile OS system updates should never be downloaded from external resources (unless you are participating in official beta-testing). Application updates can only be installed through official app stores
● Use reliable security solutions for comprehensive protection from a wide range of threats, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud

To learn more about threats to mobile devices, please read the blog post available at