Just five years ago, who would have guessed that tablets would be the game-changing devices they have become? Or that mobile phones would morph into the sleek smartphones we know and love?
The consumerization of IT has seen rapid growth over the past few years, and it shows no sign of slowing down. Mobile devices have been enormously beneficial for consumers and business alike – people love them for their convenience and usability, and as a result, they love bringing them into the workplace. Unfortunately, this also means that hackers have taken note: this dramatic increase in personal mobile devices has led to an equally dramatic spike in mobile malware.
The McAfee Labs Q1 Threats Report clearly outlines this increase in mobile threats. Our team found almost 7,000 new pieces malware for the Android platform in Q1, most of which were criminal operations motivated by financial profit. This is a 1,200% increase from Q4 2011 – a worrisome statistic, especially when you consider that Android is the most widely used operating system in the United States.
With this sudden surge in smartphones and tablets that rely heavily on app markets, the major attack vector is rapidly shifting from the SMS/MMS channel to malware within malicious apps.
Once installed, these apps are able to:
- Turn a smartphone into a bot that can then infect other machines
- Steal data (contacts, emails, text messages, bank account information, etc.)
- Send text messages to premium numbers to extract funds
- Influence search results/Adware
Thankfully, we have seen multiple use cases where operators have proactively deployed network security efforts for their subscribers:
- Public IP addresses can be blacklisted due to significant spam traffic coming out of the network (subscriber traffic gets NAT’ed).
- A majority of today’s malware relies on infecting others (bots), and reconnaissance is a precursor to that. Without protection, there’s a significant amount of scanning going on in the network that directly impacts the wireless spectrum, since phones are up all the time.
- Operator helpdesks are the first point of contact for subscribers when devices begin to slow down. They can flag a subscriber’s account if data bills are suddenly higher, or if there’s known evidence of data theft.
- There’s also a compliance/legal angle to this: Operators are required to provide evidence of theft or spying, as well as forensics data.
Starting with the R7.1.1 (June 2012) release, we’ve added some exciting new features to our McAfee Network Security Platform, built on top of our market-leading IPS that can also help mitigate these new mobile threats:
- Mobile subscriber-centric dashboard
- Options to send SMS to phones under attack
- Phone-centric reports, drill-down
- Detection and blocking for over 7000 mobile threats
- Over 100 mobile OS/App signatures (which include jail-break detection)
If you’re an existing customer, you get this protection with the release upgrade – no licensing involved. And we also have some really exciting features coming up. If you’re a mobile operator seeking subscriber protection, we’re happy to work with you to protect your network and your customers.