Washington D.C., USA —
Mobile Advertising Trojans and stalkerware witnessed a solid rise in 2019, increasingly jeopardizing the personal data of smartphone users. The former experienced a 2-digit growth in terms of the number of detected installation packages, while the latter targeted mobile users at least twice as often as in 2018.
These are among the major findings of Kaspersky’s annual ‘Mobile Malware Evolution’ report.
In the hyper-connected world of today, users are always online, be it on mobile email applications, social networks, or various messengers. Mobile devices have turned into transportable containers of personal data. It is no surprise then that malicious hunters for private information have decided to exploit this. As Kaspersky statistics demonstrated, two of the most actively evolving mobile threats of 2019 have a lot to do with threats to privacy – namely mobile adware and stalkerware.
Mobile Adware collects troves of private information to show users targeted banner ads. Apart from the usually annoying banners, there is another dimension to this type of attack- victim’s sensitive data may end up on third-party servers without consent or knowledge. In the past year, 21% of all mobile threats observed by Kaspersky were related to Adware.
Whereas, stalkerware consists of commercial spyware applications, usually installed on devices without users’ knowledge or consent; they stay hidden, operating in the background.
These applications have access to significant amounts of personal data, such as device location, browser history, text messages, social media chats, photos and more.
Such malicious programs can enable a third-party hacker to gain access to stalkerware servers and collect someone’s personal information for their own purposes.
Kaspersky’s latest stats — which were calculated using the stalkerware detection criteria suggested by the Coalition Against Stalkerware — show that attacks on the personal data of mobile device users increased from 40,386 unique users attacked in 2018 to 67,500 in 2019.
Moreover, there was a twofold increase in the number of attacks during the second half of the year when compared to the first half. For example, there were 4483 users attacked in January 2019; in September 2019, this number rose to 9546, and, in December 2019, this number reached 11052 attacked users.
“In 2019, attacks by stalkerware, which aims to track the victim and collect private information about them, became much more frequent. What is even more important, the technical development of this type of attack does not lag behind its malicious counterparts. Given that, we would like to reiterate that digital privacy is just as much a person’s right as any other. And there are ways to keep personal data safe and secure. But to do so, it is very important to treat this issue with care,” commented Victor Chebyshev, a security expert at Kaspersky.
To reduce the risk of infection and to stay protected, Kaspersky experts advise users to pay attention to the apps installed on their smartphones and avoid downloading them from unknown sources.
Furthermore, frequent system updates and regular scans are also necessary to ensure maximum security.