5 Mobile Threat Trends You May Have Missed

Looking Beyond The Hype In Mobile Threat Reports

The latest mobile threat trend reports highlight few new trends on the threat landscape. Android devices pose the greatest risk to the corporate network, and all mobile devices pose the danger of data leakage. But a few interesting mobile security trends can be gleaned from the latest threat report issued by Juniper Networks. Here are five findings gathered from the data that are not often highlighted in media reports about mobile device attacks and smartphone security trends.

1. Remote Wipe Feature Used Sparingly

Corporate data exposure as the result of a lost and stolen mobile device is among the chief concerns of most CISOs, according to security experts. Juniper said its analysis of its mobile security suite user base found that only 1.5 percent had to wipe data from the devices, "suggesting that the majority of lost devices are eventually found."

A key point on remote wiping advocated by security policy experts: Tell employees to first phone the IT desk if their mobile device is lost or stolen. If the cell carrier takes the device offline, IT teams won't be able to wipe it.

2. Documented Attacks On Enterprise Devices

Juniper said its mobile researchers found evidence of at least one infection on 3.1 percent of enterprise mobile devices running Junos Pulse, the company's corporate mobile security suite.

Most of the infections are risky mobile apps labeled as spyware. The company said the infection raises the alarm about the potential for cybercriminals to target corporate data through a mobile device attack.

3. Most Android Devices Using Outdated Software

Juniper said 92 percent of mobile malware targets Google Android, making it the most attacked mobile platform. Juniper points out that 77 percent of Android threats could be eliminated if all Android devices had the latest OS. Currently, only 4 percent of Android devices are running Jelly Bean, the mobile platform's latest version. This is due to a variety of factors, including the fact that Android runs on a wide variety of hardware.

Juniper cites Google's decentralized ecosystem as the main reason for it being difficult to get software updates, including security patches, out to Android users. Updates must be tested by handset makers and distributed to carriers that push it out to their customers.

4. There Are More Than 500 Third-Party Application Stores

Juniper said its researchers identified more than 500 third-party application stores hosting mobile malware. Many stores are based in China and Russia, locations that are infamous for malware and financially motivated cybercrime. Android device owners can easily use them to download apps, but the stores also serve jailbroken iOS devices. Juniper estimates about several million iPhone and iPads are manipulated to side-load apps.

5. SMS Trojans Have Been Around For A Decade Or More

Text messaging attacks have been a favorite of attackers and the first one appeared on GSM mobile devices in 2000. Symbian phones were the primary targets but as their popularity declined, attacks targeting Android devices increased significantly. The first SMS Trojan targeting Android devices appeared in 2009.

SMS Trojans and fake installer malware are designed to make cybercriminals a quick and easy profit, Juniper said. Attackers rack up premium text messaging charges on a victim's phone bill. Fake installers masquerade as legitimate mobile apps but require users to pay attackers via premium SMS. The attacks make up 73 percent of all malware sampled by Juniper researchers. Each successful attack provides $10 in immediate profit, Juniper said.