New mobile threat families and variants rose by 49% from last 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.
While the “walled-gardens” of the iOS and Windows Phone, where apps require approval before sale, have prevented malware threats to develop for the iPhone or Nokia models running those systems, Android threats are increasing and becoming more likely to affect average users.
“I’ll put it this way: Until now, I haven’t worried about my mother with her Android because she’s not into apps,” F-Secure Security Advisor Sean Sullivan said. “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.”
You can get the entire report here and as you read through it, listen to our Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen and Sean Sullivan walk through the report in this exclusive preview. (Sorry, there is a odd echo for the first few minutes of the recording.)
Here’s a look at profit-motivated threats. Is anyone surprised that mobile malware authors are mostly motivated by money?
As far as the types of threats our Labs is seeing, Trojans continue to dominate:
Freedome from F-Secure was released a little over a year ago, and in that time over 2 million people have downloaded the VPN for Android, iOS, and Windows PC devices. Now people using Amazon’s range of Fire products (including Kindle Fire tablets, Fire tablets, and the Fire phone) can enjoy the one-button privacy protection offered by the app. Amazon’s original Kindle Fire model was a hot holiday item when it debuted in 2011. It provided fast and easy access to Amazon’s wide range of digital content and services, making it an ideal tablet for people who want an easy way to enjoy being online. It carved out a niche market for itself, and Amazon has since released a number of different Kindle Fire and Fire tablets, as well as a Fire phone. According to Päivi Juolahti, F-Secure’s Senior Product Manager, Next Generation Security, Freedome has a similar appeal in that it offers people an easy yet effective way to address their security needs. “People like Amazon’s devices because they give people a fun and easy way to enjoy using the Internet. People like using Freedome for the same reasons, so offering it to Fire users makes a lot of sense”. The one-button app gives users an easy-to-use VPN (that’s a virtual private network) that can help prevent others from tracking what they see and do online. The app is specifically designed to make it easy for people to protect themselves by offering security that can be switched on at the simple push of a button. Publications such as the Android Authority and CNET have responded positively to the way Freedome bundles the following kinds of protection together into a single, user-friendly app: Tracking Protection – Freedome disables trackers that web sites and apps use to monitor what you do online. These “digital footprints” can be stored and even shared without your knowledge, so using Freedome to disable them helps you keep control of your personal information. Virtual Location Selection – You can use Freedome to choose your virtual location. That’s how websites determine where in the world you are. By giving you 15 different virtual locations to choose from, you can even use it to access geo-blocked content. Virus Detection – Freedome’s app security scans the applications on your device to make sure they don’t contain any viruses. Plus, its browsing protection feature scans the websites you connect with to prevent them from spreading malware to your phone or computer. Encryption – Freedome encrypts your communications, preventing digital spies from learning what you’re doing online. Many public Wi-Fi networks aren’t encrypted, so using Freedome lets you browse the web, send e-mails or chat with friends without having to worry about cyber-snoops. You can try Freedome on your Fire device for a free 14-day trial. Even if you choose not subscribe after your trial ends, Freedome’s App Security will continue to protect your device, making it a good first download for any new Fire user.
The newest leak from Edward Snowden may be coming at a terrible time for the Obama White House but it's not particularly shocking news to security experts. The Intercept's report about the "Great SIM Heist" reveals American and British spies stole the keys that are "used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe" from Gemalto, the world's largest manufacturer of SIM cards. It goes on to report that "With these stolen encryption keys, intelligence agencies can monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments," which sidesteps the needs for legal warrants that should be the foundation of ethical law enforcement. While this is certainly troubling and speaks to the agencies wanton regard for privacy and some amateurish procedures being used to transport keys, it likely won't alter the security landscape much. "The best summary is that an already unreliable communication method became even more unreliable," F-Secure Labs Senior Researcher Jarno Niemela, the holder of 20 security-related patents, explained. "Nobody in their right minds would assume GSM [Global System for Mobile Communications --the digital cellular network used by mobile phones] to be private in the first place," he said. "Phone networks have never been really designed with privacy in mind." Mobile operators are much more concerned with being able to prevent their customers from avoiding billing. While a scope of such a breach does seem huge, Jarno points we're not sure how many of the billions of cards manufactured by Gemalto may be affected. Keys sent to and from operators via without encryption in email or via FTP servers that were not properly secured are almost certainly compromised. But according to The Intercept, GCHQ also penetrated “authentication servers,” which allow it to "decrypt data and voice communications between a targeted individual’s phone and his or her telecom provider’s network" regardless who made the cards. With the cracked keys, users' calls would be vulnerable but likely only in a limited manner. "I am told that these keys only expose the encryption and authentication between the mobile device and the local cell tower," F-Secure Security Advisor David Perry explained. "This means that the NSA or (whoever else) would have to be locally located within radio range of your phone." So could the NSA or GCHQ be listening to your calls without a warrant? Maybe. Here's what you can do about it. Add a layer of encryption of your own to any device you use to communicate. A VPN like our Freedome will protect your data traffic. This would not, however, protect your voice calls. "Maybe it’s time to stop making 'traditional' mobile phones calls," F-Secure Labs Senior Researcher Timo Hirvonen suggests. "Install Freedome, and start making your calls with apps like Signal." [Image by Julian Carvajal | Flickr]
Fresh off his latest talk at at TEDxBrussels, our Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen sat down for a little session of "ask me anything" on reddit. You can read all of the questions people had for him and answers here. WARNING: There is a lot to go through. With over 3,200 comment's, Mikko's AMA ranks among one of the more popular threads in the subreddit's history. For a quick taste of what Mikko had to say about artificial intelligence, Tor, and Edward Snowden, here are slightly edited versions of 5 of our favorite questions and answers. How safe are current smart phones and how secure are their connections? - Jadeyard The operating systems on our current phones (and tablets) are clearly more secure than the operating systems on our computers. That's mostly because they are much more restricted. Windows Phones and iOS devices don't have a real malware problem (they still have to worry about things like phishing though). Android is the only smartphone platform that has real-world malware for it (but most of that is found in China and is coming from 3rd party app stores). It is interesting the Android is the first Linux distribution to have a real-world malware problem. Lots of people are afraid of the viruses and malware only simply because they are all over the news and relatively easy to explain to. I am personally more afraid of the silently allowed data mining (i.e. the amount of info Google can get their hands on) and social engineering style of "hacking". How would you compare these two different threats and their threat levels on Average Joes point of view - which of them is more likely to cause some harm. Or is there something else to be more afraid of even more (govermental level hacks/attacks)? - BadTaster There are different problems: problems with security and problems with privacy. Companies like Google and Facebook make money by trying to gather as much information about you as they can. But Google and Facebook are not criminals and they are not breaking the law. Security problems come from criminals who do break the law and who directly try to steal from you with attacks like banking trojans or credit card keyloggers. Normal, everyday people do regularily run into both problems. I guess getting hit by a criminal attack is worse, but getting your privacy eroded is not a laughing matter either. Blanket surveillance of the internet also affects us all. But comparing these threats to each other is hard. Hi, Mikko! Do you subscribe to Elon Musk's statements and conceptions of AI being the single biggest threat to humans? - matti80 Elon is the man. I've always thought of Tony Stark as my role model and Elon is the closest thing we have in the real world. And he's right. Artificial Intelligence is scary. I believe introducing an entity with superior intelligence into your own biosphere is a basic evolutionary mistake. Europol's cybercrime taskforce recently took down over a hundred darknet servers. Did the news shake your faith in TOR? - brain4narchy People use Tor for surfing the normal web anonymized, and they use Tor Hidden Service for running websites that are only accessible for Tor users. Both Tor use cases can be targeted by various kinds of attacks. Just like anywhere else, there is no absolute security in Tor either. I guess the takedown showed more about capabilities of current law enforcement than anything else. I use Tor regularly to gain access to sites in the Tor Hidden Service, but for protecting my own privacy, I don't rely on Tor. I use VPNs instead. In addition to providing you an exit node from another location, VPNs also encrypt your traffic. However, Tor is free and it's open source. Most VPNs are closed source, and you have to pay for them. And you have to rely on the VPN provider, so choose carefully. We have a VPN product of our own, which is what I use. If you ever met Snowden what would be the first question you would ask him? - SaPro19 'What would you like to drink? It's on me.' Cheers, Sandra