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Mobile device malware report reveals all-time high in mobile device infections

The latest Threat Intelligence Report reveals a new all-time high in mobile device malware infections, a sharp increase in compromised smartphones and major IoT device security vulnerabilities.

Issued twice per year, the Nokia Threat Intelligence Report examines general trends and statistics for mobile device malware in devices connected through mobile and fixed networks around the world.

Mobile device malware Monthly infection rate on mobile networks since January 2013

The latest report revealed a steady increase in mobile device malware infections throughout 2016, with malware striking 1.35% of all mobile devices in October – the highest level seen since reporting started in 2012. The report also revealed a surge of nearly 400% in smartphone malware attacks in 2016. Smartphones were the most-targeted devices in the second half of the year, accounting for 85% of all mobile device infections.

While Android(TM)-based smartphones and tablets continued to be the primary targets, reflecting the prevalence of the operating system worldwide, iOS-based devices also suffered attacks in the second half of the year, primarily by Spyphone surveillance software that tracks users’ calls, text messages, social media applications, web searches, GPS locations and other activities.

The Threat Intelligence Report also exposed major vulnerabilities in the rapidly expanding universe of IoT devices, underscoring the need for the industry to re-evaluate its IoT deployment strategies to ensure these devices are securely configured, managed and monitored.

“The security of IoT devices has become a major concern. The Mirai botnet attacks last year demonstrated how thousands of unsecured IoT devices could easily be hijacked to launch crippling DDoS attacks,” says Kevin McNamee, head of the Nokia Threat Intelligence Lab.

“As the number and types of IoT devices continue to proliferate, the risks will only increase. Nokia’s network-based security can help address this growing threat by detecting activity before a DDoS attack occurs, enabling service providers to take corrective actions that mitigate the impact.”

Key findings of the latest Nokia Threat Intelligence Report include:

  • Mobile device malware Device breakdown, second half of 2016Mobile device infection rate continues to climb: The overall infection rate increased 63% in the second half of 2016, compared to the first half of the year.
  • New all-time high: The mobile device infection rate rose steadily throughout 2016, reaching 1.35% in October (vs. 1.06% in April 2016) – the highest level recorded since the study started in 2012.
  • Smartphones the top target: Smartphones were the top malware targets by far, accounting for 85% of all mobile device infections in the second half of 2016. Smartphone infections increased 83% during this period compared to the first half of the year (0.90% vs 0.49%), and increased nearly 400% in 2016.
  • Major IoT device vulnerabilities: In late 2016, the Mirai botnet assembled an army of compromised IoT devices to launch three of the largest DDoS attacks in history, including an assault that took down many high-profile web services. These attacks underscored the urgent requirement for more robust security capabilities to protect IoT devices from future attacks and exploitation.
  • Malware seeks a bite out of Apple: Android-based devices continue to be the primary target for malware attacks (81%). However, iOS and other mobile devices were also targeted in the second half of the year (4%).
  • Decrease in Windows/PC infections: Windows/PC systems accounted for 15% of malware infections in the second half of 2016, down from 22% in the first half of the year.
  • Fixed network infections continue decline: The monthly infection rate in residential fixed broadband networks averaged 10.7% in the second half of 2016, down from 12% in the first half, and down from 11% in late 2015. While moderate threat level adware activity decreased in the second half of 2016, high-level threats (e.g., bots, rootkits, keyloggers and banking Trojans) remained steady at approximately 6%.

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