Cybercriminals transitioning from email, surging on smartphone platforms in 2011

Feb 8, 2011
Tech

The equation is simple: Bank robbers target banks because that’s where the money is. Likewise, the black-hat criminals push their malware to more popular platforms because that’s where they can do the most damage. As email has faded in popularity, cybercriminals increasingly are aiming their malware at a new target: smartphones. In its fourth quarter […]

The equation is simple: Bank robbers target banks because that’s where the money is.

Likewise, the black-hat criminals push their malware to more popular platforms because that’s where they can do the most damage.

As email has faded in popularity, cybercriminals increasingly are aiming their malware at a new target: smartphones.

In its fourth quarter report, McAfee (MFE) this morning noted that mobile malware threats were up nearly 50 percent compared with a year earlier.

“Our Q4 Threats Report shows that cybercriminals are keeping tabs on what’s popular, and what will have the biggest impact from the smallest effort,” said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs. “…cybercriminals are tapped in to trends worldwide. McAfee Labs also sees the direct correlation between device popularity and cybercriminal activity, a trend we expect to surge in 2011.”

McAfee said now the emerging threat is to mobile platforms, such as Android from Google (GOOG). SymbOS/Zitmo.A and Android/Geinimi were the leading malware threats for mobile. Symbian was the most targeted because of its market share.

With the adoption of so many new mobile platforms, combined with the lack of security awareness and mobile safeguards, McAfee Labs expects cybercriminals to use botnet infections to target mobile devices.

McAfee said it uncovered 20 million new pieces of malware in 2010—55,000 new malware threats on average every day. Of the almost 55 million total pieces of malware McAfee Labs has identified, 36 percent was created in 2010.

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There is some good news for email users. McAfee said spam accounted for 80 percent of total email traffic in Q4 2010, the lowest since the first quarter of 2007.

Meanwhile, McAfee said: “Mobile malware and threats have been around for years, but we must now accept them as part of the mobile landscape, both in awareness and deployment.”

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