A threat assessment of 7 million iOS and Android apps

Android malware is growing more pervasive, and iOS devices are also increasingly at risk.

FireEye analyzed seven million mobile apps on both Android and iOS platforms from January to October 2014. Researchers reviewed popular apps with more than 50,000 downloads to assess their exposure to a common vulnerability, and found that 31% of them were exposed to it. Of those, 18% were in categories with potentially sensitive data, including finance, medical, communication, shopping, health, and productivity.

Research conducted in the second half of 2013 found a 500% increase in the number of Android apps designed to steal financial data.

Manish Gupta, senior vice president of products at FireEye said: “Most enterprises have little or no information on mobile security risks nor any way to deal with an advanced attack on a mobile device. Our findings highlight the threat apps pose and why enterprises must implement a mobile security policy that focuses on applications.”

Attackers can take advantage of enterprise/ad-hoc provisioning to deliver malicious apps to end users, either through USB connections or over the air. Researchers found more than 1,400 iOS apps publicly available on the Internet introducing variants of security issues, signed and distributed using enterprise provisioning profiles.

Analysis indicates that mobile users face risks on many fronts today including:

  • Malicious apps that steal information once installed
  • Legitimate apps written insecurely by developers
  • Legitimate apps using insecure or aggressive ad libraries
  • Malware/aggressive adware that pass Google Play checks and are thus assumed “safe’
  • Identity theft
  • Premium rate phone and SMS fraud.