Mobile malware attacks on the rise: Study

The Fortinet study reveals unique threat variants and families are increasing, while botnet infections continue to infect organizations

Mobile malware attacks on the rise: Study - CIO&Leader

Threats are increasing and evolving to become more sophisticated, according to Fortinet’s latest quarterly Global Threat Landscape Report. Unique threat variants and families are on the rise, while botnet infections continue to infect organizations. Highlights of the report are:

  • Threat Development Continues to Be a Top Focus for Cybercriminals. Cybercriminals are not only expanding their attack arsenal but also developing new strategies for breaching defenses. Unique malware variants grew 43%, while the number of malware families grew by nearly 32%. The number of unique daily malware detections per firm also rose 62%. In line with these trends, unique exploits increased nearly 10%and the number of exploit detections per firm rose 37%. Cybercriminals continue to evolve threats by creating unique malware variants and families, demonstrating the ongoing importance of threat intelligence and assessment tools.
  • Mobile Devices Remain a Target. Over one-quarter of organizations experienced a mobile malware attack, with the majority being on the Android operating system. In fact, of the threats organizations faced from all attack vectors, 14% of total malware alerts were Android related. By comparison, only .000311% of threats were targeted at Apple iOS. Mobile threats are a looming threat that must be addressed, especially as the mobile-shopping holiday season nears. These threats can become a gateway for corporate networks to be exploited. Criminals know mobile is an accessible target for infiltrating a network, and they are exploiting it.
  • Cryptojacking is a Gateway to Other Attacks. Cryptojacking remains prevalent and continues to grow in scope. The number of platforms affected by cryptojacking jumped 38% and the number of unique signatures nearly doubled in the past year. These include new sophisticated platforms for advanced attackers as well as “as-a-service” platforms for novice criminals. IoT botnets are also increasingly leveraging cryptojacking exploits for their attack strategy. Although it is often considered to be a nuisance threat that simply hijacks unused CPU cycles, security leaders are realizing how cryptojacking can become a gateway for additional attacks. Underestimating the repercussions of cryptojacking places an organization under heightened risk.
  • Percentage of Malicious Network Traffic is Higher on Weekends or Holidays. Data shows malicious network traffic represents a higher percentage of overall traffic on weekends and holidays as business traffic slows down significantly since many employees are not working during this time. For many organizations this may be an opportune time to sweep for malware because as the “haystack” of traffic becomes smaller, the chance of finding malicious “needles” is much greater. With cybercriminals using more automated and sophisticated techniques, any opportunity to increase visibility can be an advantage.
  • Burstiness of Botnets. The botnet index rose only 2%, though the number of infection days per firm increased 34% from 7.6 days to 10.2 days. This may be an indication that botnets are becoming more sophisticated, difficult to detect, or harder to remove. It may also denote a failure to practice good cyber hygiene in general by some organizations. The importance of consistent security hygiene remains vital to thoroughly addressing the total scope of these attacks. Sometimes botnets can go dormant, only to return after normal business operations have resumed, if the root cause or “patient zero” is not determined.
  • Encrypted Traffic Reaches a New Threshold. Encrypted traffic reached a new high, comprising 72% of all network traffic, up from 55% just one year ago. While encryption can certainly help protect data in motion as it moves between core, cloud, and endpoint environments, it also represents a challenge for traditional security solutions. The critical firewall and IPS performance limitations of some legacy security solutions continue to limit the ability of organizations to inspect encrypted data at business speeds. As a result, a growing percentage of this traffic is increasingly not analyzed for malicious activity, making it an ideal mechanism for criminals to spread malware or exfiltrate data.

Digital Change Requires a New Approach to Security

The threat data in this quarter’s report once again reinforces many of the threat prediction trends unveiled by the FortiGuard Labs global research team. To stay ahead of the ongoing efforts of cybercriminals, organizations need to transform their security strategies as part of their digital transformation efforts. Isolated, legacy security devices and poor security hygiene continue to be a formula for increased risk to today’s threat landscape as they do not provide adequate visibility or control. Instead, a security fabric that spans the entire expanded network environment and is integrated between each security element is vital to address today’s growing threat environment and to protect the expanding attack surface. This approach enables actionable threat intelligence to be shared at speed and scale, shrinks the necessary windows of detection, and provides the automated remediation required for today’s multi-vector exploits.


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