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Hackers are switching to chargeware scams to steal from mobile users

Lookout warns that 20 percent of all chargeware is targeting the UK
Thu Feb 20 2014, 14:04

CYBER CRIMINALS are shifting their behaviours towards fresh mobile scams in order to evade recent measures put in place by security companies, mobile security outfit Lookout has warned.

Detecting a shift from standard mobile malware to "chargeware", Lookout said in its Made to Measure threat report today that hackers are now using charging practices in mobile apps that mislead users and steal their money while going completely undetected.

Lookout said that these chargeware apps are alarming, as they are designed to look authentic and sometimes do their business without even breaking the law.

Worryingly for the UK, Lookout's report claimed that 20 percent of all known global chargeware is designed to target users in Blighty.

Using an example, Lookout principal security researcher Marc Rogers highlighted a chargeware campaign codenamed "SMS Capers", which accounted for more than 50 per cent of all known mobile risks.

Rogers told The INQUIRER that the increase in UK focused chargeware is part of an evolving landscape of criminals' moneymaking strategies.

"When we looked at the data coming in from the 50 million global Lookout customers' handsets over the last year we spotted some pretty interesting trends," Rogers said.

"First of which is, despite what many people are saying, the sky isn't falling and we've not seen the mobile doomsday everyone's been talking about. What we saw instead was a specialisation within the mobile threat community."

Rogers explained that mobile criminals are now moving to work in the environment of the mobile ecosystem and audience they're targeting, and in the UK, this means that most campaigns tend to be chargeware, that is, "campaigns designed to tick the boxes you need to look legitimate".

He added that the evolution is likely to be a reaction to positive reforms by Google and UK telecoms companies to combat Android malware.

"Over the last year more companies and operators have been working to block malware. The additional security [in Android] has had an impact and overall threat levels are down," he said.

"But criminals are getting to know their market and are changing their operations to get round this, they're moving from the black into the grey area."

Despite this general shift in trends, Lookout established that mobile malware is still prevalent across the globe, and that countries like Russia and China remained the most malware infested nations, accounting for 63 per cent and 28 per cent of all threat detections, respectively. µ


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