Combination of text, voice and email attacks to cause havoc for businesses
Mobile security threats are shifting to a more sophisticated attack vector, one that combines SMS, MMS, email, web and voice to compromise different aspects of the device, according to AdaptiveMobile.
The firm’s 2011 Global Security Insights in Mobile report says that mobile attacks are primarily aimed at stealing money, which in turn affects the reputation of mobile operators and the trust users have in them.
The most potentially damaging of these new threats is a new form of mobile malware, which was first picked up last October. According to AdaptiveMobile it is an evolution of existing PC malware that steals bank log in information, including the legitimate secure code that banks send out to users.
It is a combination of attack vectors that is resulting in so much success for the criminals behind the scams. While it is easy for a user to dismiss a single text message, for example, a text message followed by an email supposedly from the same company is far more believable.
Other forms of compound threats include malware that sends out fake missed call alerts. The user is prompted to return the call, which is routed to a premium rate phone line. Gareth Maclachlan, COO, AdaptiveMobile, told CBR that one such threat netted its creator $1m in a matter of days, compared to around $25,000 that may be gained from a similar email scam.
"The barriers to prevent attacks have fallen recently," he said. "It used to cost a fortune to get one set up and running. Now you can by the tools off the shelf very cheaply. The floodgates are open."
Maclachlan said that it is the responsibility of mobile operators to beef up security on their networks, because they will be the first stop for a disgruntled users. Operators are beginning to take the issue more seriously, he added.
"Mobile operators are now seeing an opportunity similar to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) ten years ago. When they realised they could not charge by the minute for dial-up Internet access they had to find others to differentiate themselves from the opposition," he told CBR.
"Mobile companies are now doing the same with security because they know a lack of trust will cost them users," he added. "Protecting against a single threat is no longer enough; all traffic needs to be inspected and controlled."
The problem of compound threats is more acute for businesses, Maclachlan warned. "Most users will have the same device, so the same security flaws will be present," he told CBR. "Contacts in the address book are likely to be business contacts so users will trust them and are more likely to open attachments. Phone bills are also rarely checked so people will not know how much calls are costing or if unauthorised texts have been sent."
Businesses worried about the security of their mobile fleet need to take three steps, according to Maclachlan. Educate end users so they are aware of potential threats; make sure the mobile bill is thoroughly examined and talk to mobile operators to establish their security procedures.