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Q1 2013: Game Changer for Android Malware?

F-Secure Labs’ latest Mobile Threat Report records a list of firsts for Android malware, including the first non-app-related distribution. The count of new Android threats rose by 49 percent.

Helsinki, Finland – May 14, 2013: The first quarter of 2013 was marked by firsts for Android malware that add complexity to the Android threat landscape. According to F-Secure Labs’ latest Mobile Threat Report, January through March saw the first Android threat distribution outside of apps via email spam, the first targeted Android attacks, and the first Android advanced fee fraud scam. Additionally, examples of increased commoditization of Android malware surfaced.

The number of new mobile threat families and variants continued to rise by 49 percent from the previous quarter, from 100 to 149. 136, or 91.3% of these were Android and 13, or 8.7% Symbian. Q1 2013 numbers are more than double that of a year ago in Q1 2012, when 61 new families and variants were discovered.

The new Android techniques are a cause for concern, says Sean Sullivan, Security Advisor at F-Secure Labs. “I’ll put it this way: Until now, I haven’t worried about my mother with her Android because she’s not into apps. Now I have reason to worry because with cases like Stels, Android malware is also being distributed via spam, and my mother checks her email from her phone.”

The Android trojan known as Stels began distributing via fake U.S. Interal Revenue Service-themed emails, using an Android crimeware kit to steal sensitive information from the device, and monetizing by making calls to premium numbers. This example of mobile malware commoditization “could be a game changer,” according to Sullivan.

Q1 also saw the first confirmed targeted attacks in the mobile space. Tibetan human rights activists were targeted with emails that contained an Android-malware-infected attachment, and a so-called “coupon app” for a popular coffee chain steals information from phones with South Korean country codes.

Mobile is being targeted in India, as the discovery of the first Android advanced fee fraud proved. A fake “job offer” Android app in India informs that the user is being considered for a position at TATA Group, an Indian multinational company. To arrange the interview, the app asks for a refundable security deposit.

For more details on the latest mobile threats, including adware, commoditization via the Perkele malware family and more, see the complete Mobile Threat Report January-March 2013 .

F-Secure Labs focuses on counting the numbers of families and variants of malware rather than the number of unique samples. To attempt to avoid detection of their malware, cybercriminals use automation that makes slight changes to malware code – resulting in new malware samples that are fundamentally still the same malware family or variant. Counting families and variants rather than samples provides a more realistic measurement of threats.

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