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Mobile infection rate jumps in H1 2014

Alcatel-Lucent report shows mobile malware proliferating, while fixed-line attacks continue to grow

Mobile infection rate jumps in H1 2014
The mobile infection rate was 0.65% during the first half of 2014, compared to 0.55% at the end of 2013

Security threats to mobile and residential devices jumped sharply in the first half of 2014, according to new data released by Alcatel-Lucent this week.

The threats have put device owners at greater risk of being spied on, having personal information stolen, or experiencing ‘bill shock' as a result of pirated data usage, the telecoms vendor said.

The figures from Alcatel-Lucent's Kindsight Security Labs reveal a sharp increase in the number of mobile malware infections, which rose 17% during the first six months of 2014, growing at nearly double the rate for the whole of 2013.

The mobile infection rate was 0.65% during the first half of 2014, compared to 0.55% at the end of 2013. Based on this, Kindsight Security Labs estimated that 15m mobile devices are infected with malware, up from 11.3m at the end of 2013.

Android devices accounted for 60% of total mobile network infections, with 40% of mobile malware originating from Windows laptops connected to a phone or connected directly through a mobile USB stick or Mi-Fi hub. Meanwhile, infections on iPhone and BlackBerry devices made up less than 1%.

"Android smartphones are the easiest malware target, but Windows laptops are still the favourite of hardcore professional cyber-criminals," said Kevin McNamee, security architect and director of Alcatel-Lucent's Kindsight Security Labs.

"The quality and sophistication of most Android malware is still behind the more mature Windows PC varieties. Android malware makes no serious effort to conceal itself and relies on unsuspecting people to install an infected app."

Mobile network infections frequently took the form of ‘Trojanised' applications, which look fine on the surface but contain hidden malware that, when downloaded, can steal personal information on phones, send premium-rate SMS messages and browse the web, Alcatel-Lucent said.

Similarly, residential infection rates among fixed networks jumped to 18% at the end of June 2014, from 9% in December 2013.

Alcatel-Lucent attributed the residential infection rate rise primarily to moderate threat level adware, which primarily poses an annoyance for device owners such as unwanted ads or sub-par device performance. However, high-level malware threats were on the rise, too - the report noted that 7% of broadband residential customers were infected with high-level threats, up from 5% at the end of 2013.

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