Windows and Android Susceptible to Spyware

18 Sep

As the technology world becomes more and more mobile, moving as we move on a daily basis, there has been little talk about how your mobile device could be used in a negative way. Sure, we all love to take ‘selfies’ and share our delicious dinner with our friends and followers, but we don’t often think about the negative aspects of a mobile device.

Most of us are familiar with computer viruses, malware, spyware, and everything in between. The average computer user has most likely experienced a computer virus at some time or another, especially after P2P music sharing became popular over a decade ago.

When the first technological advancements came to the smartphone, including touch screens, apps, Wi-Fi, and location based software people jumped on board quickly. The world was essentially brought closer together by technology – but there are downsides as well.

A recently released report by Alcatel-Lucent, titled Motive Security Labs Malware Report, describes the dangers of mobile phone usage, and how more and more mobile applications and network connections can contain malware and spyware.

So what are the most susceptible devices? Those running Windows or Android.

While Windows devices only make up a small portion of the smartphone market (about 3% or less) they make about 80% of the infections on hardware that relies on mobile networks for connections. Android accounts for about 20%, while others like iOS account for less than 1%.

Android, which hovered in the 50% range in a similar report earlier this year, has significantly decreased the amount of malware on its devices by “cleaning up” possibly malicious applications from its Google Play e-mart.

Malware is particularly scary, however, the most troubling statistic found is that 10 of the top 25 smartphone infections come from spyware. Spyware is used to, well, spy on the smartphone user. Spyware allows someone to look at your pictures, emails, texts, listen to calls, or follow your location.

Most people who have a device that is infected with spyware don’t even know it.

The report came to an interesting conclusion about mobile spyware:

In the mobile space the use of commercial spyphone apps has really taken off . These apps allow you to track the movements of the phone’s owner, their phone calls, text messages, e-mails and browsing habits . Often these are used for reasonable activities, like keeping track of your children, but there are also far more sinister uses for these types of applications.

The modern smartphone also presents the perfect platform for cyber-espionage . First, it can be used simply as a tool that the owner (spy) can use to photograph, film, record audio, scan networks and send the results immediately through the air to a safe site for analysis . In the “bring your own device” (BYOD) context it makes a perfect target for advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks . A smartphone infected with professional mobile spyware allows the attacker to:
• Monitor the victim’s location
• Monitor phone calls and text message
• Monitor e-mail and contacts
• Access data on the phone
• Take pictures and video
• Record conversations
• Scan and probe the local corporate network
• Exfiltrate data through the air, bypassing corporate firewalls

So, how does spyware get on your mobile device? It could be any number of ways, but the most common is either through a mobile network, or by downloading an app that has the spyware installed.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to determine which apps are “good” versus “bad”, but by not downloading any apps that you don’t completely trust or don’t have the proper reviews or public knowledge you could save yourself the trouble of spyware or malware.

The good news is the two most used mobile device platforms, Android and iOS, make up a small percentage of these infections, with most of that coming from Android devices. However, it appears that percentage could decline for Android devices as Google continues to weed out malicious applications in its e-store.

The report tells us a lot of useful information, but what it doesn’t tell us is to simply be more cautious when using your mobile device, and don’t download applications that you don’t absolutely trust.