The growing use of mobile devices to connect with social networks is fast becoming a preferred method for cyber criminals to spread malware, particularly on those devices running Android, say the results of AVG’s Q1 2012 Community Powered Threat Report.
Social networks have become a key source of information and communication. Twitter now has more than 140 million active users; and Facebook has over 845 million users, with some analysts expecting that figure to reach 1 billion this year. The result: targeting those who use Facebook is like targeting around 14 per cent of world’s population or approximately 43 per cent of global internet users.
Consider also that there are over 300 million Android phones already activated, with over 850,000 Android phones and tablets added to that number each day, and it is clear these two trends combined result in a new threat: infecting Android devices using social networks.
Most mobile devices are tied into operator billing systems making monetization of malware a lot more effective than on traditional computer systems. All the attackers need to do is trick users to install a malicious app on their device through which they can then gather cash using the phone companies’ billing systems by utilizing premium SMS services.
In many cases, this is done by charging low amounts on an infrequent basis so users don’t even notice.
On Facebook, all it takes for a cyber criminal to attack is to set up a fake profile which downloads malware to a device and randomly invite Facebook users.
On Twitter, a cyber criminal creates a spam profile and then posts tweets containing shortened hyperlinks to malware using trending hashtags. The way in which Twitter works makes sure the tweet appears on the top of many people’s Twitter feed.
“Cyber criminals are finding it very convenient to distribute their malware straight to a mobile device via these networks,” commented Yuval Ben-Itzhak, Chief Technology Officer at AVG. “The growth of the Android platform has been phenomenal, which has not gone unnoticed with cyber criminals who have discovered it to be a lucrative target for their malware. In 2011, Google had to remove over 100 malicious apps from the official Android market, Google Play.”
For more details, download the full report.