Hackers are targeting your smartphone like never before

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The pandemic has made mobile devices an essential part of every business, but it has also led to cybercriminals trageting smartphone users. 

A report by mobile cybersecurity firm Zimperium claims more than 10 million mobile devices, across 214 countries, were affected by mobile threats last year. The company’s zLabs cybersecurity research arm claims mobile malware is the most prevalent threat, as it was encountered by nearly 25% mobile endpoints within Zimperium’s global customer base.

From January 1 to December 31 2021, the zLabs team detected more than two million new mobile malware strains, meaning more than 5,000 new strains appeared every single day of the year. 

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Mobile phishing grows

Next to malware, is phishing - attacks in which threat actors assume someone else's identity, in a bid to "phish" out sensitive information from unsuspecting targets. Zimperium analyzed more than 500,000 phishing sites last year, and found that the number of mobile-specific websites grew by 50%. What’s more, 75% of phishing sites the researchers analyzed targeted specifically mobile devices.

Not only have phishing attacks grown in number, but also in their sophistication. The researchers claim the percentage of phishing sites using HTTPS has had a “steady” growth rate, from less than 40% in 2019, to almost 60% last year. The use of the HTTPS protocol makes it a lot harder for users to distinguish legitimate sites from fake ones. 

“In two short years, our work environment became way more complex and sophisticated than it was at the beginning of 2020. Distributed and hybrid workforces, ever-connected devices, high speed 5G connectivity, and increased critical data access from remote locations have spread enterprises worldwide,” said Shridhar Mittal, Zimperium’s CEO. 

“This level of mobile connectivity will remain the expectation for workers, customers, and enterprises for decades to come, but today’s cybersecurity was not built to support these environments – and attackers know it. Organizations need to come to terms with how to effectively secure this new reality, and this research will provide critical visibility and insights to help get there.”

Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.