A new security report issued by leading Anti-Virus firm Kaspersky Labs has highlighted the growing mobile malware risk, with Adware (intrusive mobile advertising) seeing a huge increase since last quarter.

The third quarter report shows a 3.1% increase in the number of new mobile malware programs discovered by Kaspersky Labs’s Q1, 2015 figures, with a 1.1% increase since last quarter.  In total, Kaspersky products detected 323,374 new mobile malware threats over the past three months. The mobile malware risk appears to be growing.

Only a small increase in mobile malware was recorded since last quarter, but the same cannot be said of mobile malware installation packages.  1,583,094 new installation packages were detected in Q3, which is one and a half times the total discovered in Q2.

There have been some significant changes in the types of mobile malware discovered, with some vectors seeing a fall in prevalence. Trojan Downloaders, Backdoors, Trojans, Trojan-Spy’s and Trojan-SMS’s all decreased in prevalence in Q3. The most significant reduction was in Trojan-Spy and Trojan-SMS malware, which dropped by 1.6 and 1.9 percentage points respectively.

However, the biggest drop since last quarter was recorded for RiskTool, which fell by 16.6 percentage points since the last quarterly report was issued. The RiskTool category includes legitimate mobile programs which are not malicious in nature, but can be manipulated by hackers. This makes them particularly risky to have installed on mobile devices. These programs are capable of terminating processes (such as security applications), hiding processes from the user, and concealing files within the Android system.

There were marginal increases in Trojan-Dropper, Trojan-Banker and Trojan-Ransom detections. The biggest rise by a considerable margin was Adware. Mobile Adware jumped from 19% of detections in Q2 to 52.2% in Q3: An increase of 33.2 percentage points.

Huge Hike in AdWare Highlights Increasing Mobile Malware Risk

Cybercriminals manage to install malware on mobile devices, but how do they actually make money from those infections? Many items of malware log keystrokes and capture passwords and logins used to access Internet banking websites but, the majority of mobile threats involve monetization via advertising. This quarter over half of all mobile malware threats came from Adware.

While the main form of monetization comes from the adverts served, that does not mean that is the only threat to users. Adverts are certainly annoying, and can contain links to malicious websites, but there could well be much worse things happening on your mobile device.

Malware is installed that can root the device and elevate privileges. Hackers can then take full control of the entire device. With superuser privileges, hackers can make changes which even the user of the device would not be able to make. Once this happens, it can be nigh on impossible to eradicate the malware and take back control of the device. It may also be virtually impossible to tell if a device has actually been attacked.

This quarter, the malicious software capable of doing this accounted for over half of the most popular malware items affecting mobile devices. The most common malicious program recorded by Kaspersky Labs, by some distance, was DangerousObject.Multi.Generic. This malware item accounted for 46.6% of attacks. The next biggest threat came from Trojan.AndroidOS.Rootnik.d which accounted for 9.9% of attacks in Q3.

How did Kaspersky Labs Produce the Report?

The latest Kaspersky report was compiled from data collected from the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN), which includes multiple anti-malware products and components. Kaspersky collected data from over 213 countries from users who had provided consent to send data from their devices to KSN. This global information exchange allows current threats to be accurately monitored. Data sharing is vital in the fight against cybercrime.

Countering the Mobile Malware Risk

Anti-Virus software such as that produced by Kaspersky Labs can be used to reduce the mobile malware risk and prevent mobile devices from being attacked. An additional control that should be considered, especially by companies allowing the use of personal devices in the workplace, is to install a web filtering solution to prevent users from accessing websites known to contain malware. This will reduce the mobile malware risk considerably.

SpamTitan web filtering software offers excellent protection and compliments AV software programs. The web filter prevents users from visiting risky websites, even when phishing links are clicked.It is one of the best ways to reduce mobile malware risk levels, although to reduce mobile malware risk to a minimal level, a multi-layered risk management strategy should be adopted.