Mobile Malware Is on the Rise

  • Increased use of mobile devices and related apps makes a ripe environment for malware.
  • Mobile security solutions and employee education can reduce malware risks.

All business, big and small, have reason to fear malware. The loss of customer trust or the leak of company secrets can be devastating to a company. While many organizations understand and can respond to threats on the desktop, the rise of mobile malware is perhaps more troubling. Smartphones and tablets in employee hands are often treated as personal devices and as such are more likely to connect to unsecure networks.

A recent article in Forbes by Gordon Kelly, detailing malware threats from 2013, shows that viruses and other forms of malware targeting mobile devices are on the rise.

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Android: The Biggest Target for Malware

In 2013, 97% of all mobile malware targeted Android users while less than 1% affected iPhone, Blackberry, Palm and Windows Phone. The reason for this is that mobile malware often targets user behavior instead of actual vulnerabilities in the platform. Unlike other mobile platforms, Android allows apps to get permissions to do things like reading and writing data anywhere on the device, automatically send SMS messages, or make phone calls. While these features can be powerful for enterprise and communications software, an unwitting user can easily fail to notice when a new game they’re installing asks for these permissions.

What is being stolen

The top three malware variants found on infected devices in the United States are Ginmaster, Vloader and InfoStealer. All three are programmed to steal confidential information from the compromised Android device and upload that data to a remote server.

For businesses, this is a worrying trend, as it is the data that is stored and accessed on these mobile devices that is often the most valuable to companies!  From email to sensitive documents and even personal contact details, hackers who gain access to confidential info have the opportunity to blackmail your company or even sell secrets to your competitors.

Staying Safe from Mobile Malware

The biggest problem researchers found was that app stores other than the Google-sanctioned Play Store were rife with malware. While your chances of downloading an infected app from Google Play was a little more than 1 in 1000, smaller app stores for Android had as many as 33% of their apps test positive for malware. Most of the malware-infected apps were repackaged versions of popular games, a trick clearly designed to tempt users into inadvertently installing them.

Mobile security solutions, including those from AT&T, can make it easier to manage malware risks when you have employees running around with smartphones and tablets. Educating your mobile users on how to stay safe and recognize the signs of a malicious app is a crucial step as well.

Have any questions about mobile malware, or just wondering how to convince your organization to adopt better mobile security standards? Leave a question or comments below, and I’ll get back to you!


Mario Armstrong, Digital Lifestyle Expert, is an Emmy Award winning, tech commentator for the TODAY show, CNN, HLN and Fuse. An entrepreneur by nature, Mario made his passion his career by quitting his day job and founding Mario Armstrong Media. Follow Mario at @MarioArmstrong. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.


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