Ransomware on the rise, warns cyber threat report

The first half of 2014 saw an increase in online attacks that lock up user data and hold it for ransom, reports F-Secure Labs

The first half 2014 saw an increase in online attacks that lock up user data and hold it for ransom – even on mobile devices –  reports F-Secure Labs.

The rising number of ransomware attacks underscores the importance of data security for home, enterprise and government users, said the firm’s threat report for the past six months.

The report shows that, while Android continues to be a favourite target for most mobile threats, those directed at iOS do exist although there are far fewer of them.

In the second quarter of 2014, 295 new threat families and variants were discovered – 294 on Android and one on iOS.

Dubbed “SSL CredThief”, the iOS malware discovered in the second quarter is a signed library file that listens to outgoing SSL connections to steal Apple ID and passwords.

In the first quarter, 277 threats were discovered, 275 targeting Android.

The top Android threats in the second quarter were Trojans that send SMS messages to premium numbers or harvest data from a device and forward it on to a remote server.

The Slocker malware reported in June, which pretends to be a legitimate app, was the first ransomware to appear on the mobile platform.

In PC threats, the six-year-old Conficker worm accounted for almost a third of the top 10 detections.

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According to F-Secure Labs, Conficker has infected millions of computers in over 200 countries. This worm’s longevity is ascribed to computers that run old software.

This illustrates the importance of keeping a computer’s software up to date so old security flaws are patched, the security firm said.

The latest threat report also revealed that new Mac malware continues to surface. Researchers found 25 new Mac threat variants in the first half of 2014, some of which were used in targeted attacks against organisations.

This figure is up from 18 discovered in July-December of last year, but lower than the 33 discovered in the first six months of 2013.

While Windows threat landscape is dominated by old and existing malware, Mac is seeing newcomers trying to fill up the previously quiet scene, the report said.

Researchers said Mac malware is getting more sophisticated in terms of its capabilities and distribution methods.

“Details emerged earlier this year that paint a fascinating picture of crime-based malware evolving into espionage-ware,” says Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure Labs.

“The bad guys out there are targeting far more that credit cards these days. Everything is of interest and there are likely a significant number of buyers for corporate data,” he said.

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