BYOD security risk: Mobile malware

Dec 16, 2013

2015-02-10 Mobile Security.jpgBring-your-own-device policies are increasingly being adopted by workplaces across nearly every industry. Such practices allow employees to utilize their preferred mobile device to access the corporate network and perform work functions. While BYOD methods have many benefits for both the employee and the company, these advantages must be balanced with risk mitigation to produce a successful practice.

Cisco blog contributor Omar Santos pointed out that when BYOD policies are not policed to reduce security risks, they can quickly transform into Bring Your Own Malware practices. Especially with employee use of smartphones rising, cybercriminals are increasingly creating malware that affects mobile platforms and leaks corporate data.

Growing threat of mobile malware
According to a recent industry report, the number of mobile malware samples increased by 26 percent in the third quarter of 2013. This grew the number of mobile malware threat families to 259, reported ComputerWeekly. Furthermore, ZDNet recently reported that mobile malware and malicious applications reached the 1 million mark earlier this year. In this way, mobile malware is among the top BYOD security risks.

Mobile malware can come in many forms, especially as more users utilize their devices to access work emails and other applications. Phishing attacks, which target users depending on their online habits or other factors, usually come in the form of a malicious email. When employees utilize their BYOD-connected device to open a dangerous link contained in a phishing campaign email, they not only infect their own device, but they enable cybercriminals to infect other smartphones, tablets or laptops on that network.

In the same vein, one user could put others in the BYOD practice in jeopardy of malware infection if their mobile device becomes part of a mobile botnet. Devices in a traditional botnet are utilized not only to create revenues for the cybercriminal, but also to expand the botnet system by infecting other devices.

Santos stated that cybercriminals usually utilize botnets as a means to make money through several different avenues. These can include stealing financial information, login credentials, contact lists and emails, as well as any other corporate-owned intellectual property. Mobile botnets can present a serious BYOD security issue, as they not only embezzle the device owner’s personal information, but any sensitive data related to their employer as well.

Cybercriminals have been known to attach mobile botnet malware to legitimate and widely popular games and applications, making it difficult for users to spot a malicious program, Santos stated. For example, Temple Run and Fishing Joy have recently been identified as malware-spreading applications.

Another BYOD security risk is the FinSpy/FinFisher malware, which has the ability to monitor and listen in on users’ calls, according to Santos. If a device infected with this malware sample is utilized within a BYOD practice, cybercriminals may be able to listen in on sensitive business calls and steal any information communicated over the phone.

While mobile malware is an overarching BYOD security issue, some operating systems are more prone to infections than others. ComputerWeekly stated that of the new malware discovered in the third quarter of 2013, 97 percent of samples affected the Android platform, while the other 3 percent targeted Symbian users. Researchers recorded no new malware affecting iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry or other platforms.

Category: Data Security