McAfee: Android is sole target of new mobile malware in Q3

All new malware being written for mobile devices targets Android, according to a McAfee report on malware trends in Q3 2011.

According to McAfee’s report for the previous quarter, Android became the most popular target, but has gone far beyond that. “In fact, this quarter Android was the sole target of mobile malware writers,” the report says.

Overall, more malware has been written over time for the Symbian mobile operating system, but Android has now eclipsed it for new exploits.

Common attacks include SMS Trojans that take over the phone and dial numbers that charge fees to the victims’ accounts. These include Android/Wapaxy, Android/LoveTrp and Android/HippoSMS, and they intercept confirmation messages from the premium sites so victims don’t realize they’ve been had.

The report notes an increase in seemingly legitimate Android applications that contain malware that steals as much data as possible from the phones.

Other Android Trojans target the actual calls users make on compromised phones. One called Android/NickiSpy.A, for example, records phone calls, GPS information and SMS messages.

McAfee has also seen root attacks that break applications out of the secure sandbox Android is designed to place them in. That gives attackers access to databases and operations such as SMS, email and contacts.

Mobile malware has been increasing for the past 11 quarters, the report says, with about 1,400 samples of it being discovered in Q3 alone.

Rootkits seem to be coming back in particular after the number of new samples discovered declined month to month from March through June, the report says. But in September, the number spiked again to nearly 60,000 after a low of just over 30,000.

Attackers seem to be focused on TDSS and Koutodoor rootkits, with the former appearing more often, McAfee says, with about 35,000 instances versus about 25,000 for Koutodoor.

The most prevalently found infections worldwide in order are malicious iframes, malicious Windows shortcut files, parasitic file infectors, USB-based autorun parasitic malware and Web-based file infectors.

The pace of malware in general seems to be accelerating, the report says. Last year’s report projected a total of 70 million unique samples would be found in 2011. That has been revised upward to 75 million.

Creation of malicious websites that distribute malware jumped in Q3, the report says. In the prior quarter, 3,000 such sites were created per day; in Q3 that number was 3,500. The majority of new malicious websites are located in the U.S., with North America accounting for 65.8 per cent of the total.

On the positive side, spam is at its lowest level since 2007, the report says, and botnet activity also dipped slightly in Q3.

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