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Hackers target financial apps on Apple and Google platforms

mobile malwarePerhaps it won’t come as a great surprise but large numbers of mobile apps in the Apple and Google stores have been hacked, with financial apps being a particular target.  According to recent research we’re talking ‘significant numbers’.       The hackers aim is capture ID credentials from users, or to operate maliciously, for example, getting the mobile device to send SMS messages to premium-cost numbers. In some cases, the aim is to defraud the creators of the app. In a chilling discovery, the researchers also discovered that 23% of financial iOS sampled apps had been hacked and reposted. For Android apps it was 53%.

Banking apps are hacked and then reposted into the app store

Essentially, hackers are downloading the apps, breaking into them, inserting malware and then reposting them into the app store.  There are concerns that hackers will also start creating apps that look as though they have been posted by a legitimate bank, fooling users into downloading them. For a long time, critics have said that the security industry is scaring people by claiming that mobile-based malware is set to swamp mobile devices. This research just adds to an already mounting body of evidence that it’s a fact and not a scare tactic. Other researchers have discovered thousands of different strains of existing viruses aimed at mobile devices, which reveals how hackers are tinkering with existing malware to meet their specific aims.

Mobile tsunami

It doesn’t require a huge leap of logic to understand why.  PCs and laptops are almost yesteryear. For sure, they still have a large role to play, particularly in the workplace, but smartphone and tablet usage is surging like a tsunami. These ‘pocket computers’ are incredibly powerful and today have more computing power than that used to launch space missions in the past. Some of the apps tap into high-performance computing which has traditionally been the preserve of governments and militaries. The trend to ever smaller, ever more powerful computing is only going to continue at a rapid pace. Blue chip companies such as Intel have invested billions into developing faster, smaller and more powerful processors, the engines of any computer. In fact, they are staking their future on something known as the ‘Internet of everything’ which essentially means processors (computers) in everyday items. Hackers are simply following the trend to smaller more powerful computing devices – or to put it another way, they’re following the money.

Angry Birds – a victim of mobile apps hackers

At BullGuard we’ve been watching this trend for some time and have seen a number of well known apps that have been exploited by hackers. Angry Birds is one. Hackers created a malware infested upgrade and then loaded it into an app store. We’ve currently got a beta version of Mobile Security 2014 running to iron out the bugs ahead of a full launch early next year. It’s got some top security features and includes an anti-virus tool that picks up malware infested apps.
Filed under: Mobile Security

Written by Steve Bell

Steve has a background in IT and business journalism and has written extensively for both the UK national and trade press including The Guardian, Independent-on-Sunday, The Times, The Register, MicroScope and Computer Weekly. He's also worked for most of the world's largest IT companies producing content producing. He has a particular focus on IT security and has produced several magazines in this area.

More articles by Steve Bell

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