Mobile Advertising Trojans (Adware) and stalkerware saw a steady rise in 2019, putting the personal data of smartphone users at increasing risk. The former showed a double-digit increase in the number of installation packages identified, while the latter targeted smartphone users at least twice as often as in 2018. These are some of the key findings of the annual report.Mobile Malware Evolution".
Amid growing concerns about digital privacy in recent years - which has also led to an enhanced regulatory framework - we often tend to forget aspects of the mobile device issue. However, in today's hyper-connected world, users are always in touch and online, whether in mobile email applications, social networks or various messengers.
Mobile devices have become "containers and carriers" of personal data. Unsurprisingly, malicious privacy hunters have decided to take advantage of this. As shown by Kaspersky statistics, two of the most actively evolving mobile threats of 2019 are directly related to threats to privacy - namely mobile adware and stalkerware.
They collect personal information to show users targeted banner ads. In addition to the usual annoying banner, there is another dimension to this type of attack - the victim's sensitive data may end up on third party servers without the consent or unknowingness of the users. Last year, 21% of all mobile threats detected by Kaspersky were related to Adware.
Adware are commercial spyware applications, usually installed on devices without the knowledge and consent of the users. They stay hidden, they operate in the background. These applications have access to a lot of personal data, such as device location, browser history, text messages, social media chats, photos, and more. This sensitive information can also reach someone hacker, who can access stalkerware servers and collect all this information for his own purposes.
Stalkerware is becoming increasingly popular with malicious users. The latest Kaspersky statistics, calculated based on the stalkerware detection criteria proposed by Coalition Against Stalkerware, show that attacks on the personal data of mobile device users increased from 40.386 unique users in 2018 to 67.500 in 2019.
In addition, the number of attacks in the second half of the year compared to the first half doubled. For example, in January 2019 4.483 users were attacked, while in September 2019, this number increased to 9.546 and in December 2019 this number reached 11.052 users.
"In 2019, attacks by stalkerware, which aims to track the victim and collect personal information, became much more frequent. What is even more important is that the technical development of this type of attack is not inferior to other malicious techniques. Given this, we would like to reiterate that digital privacy is just as important. And there are ways to keep your personal information safe and secure. "In order to do that, it is very important that we take this issue seriously," said Victor Chebyshev, a security expert at Kaspersky.
To reduce the risk of "infection" and stay protected, Kaspersky experts advise:
- Beware of applications installed on your device and avoid downloading them from unknown sources.
- Always keep your device up to date.
- Perform regular system scans to check for possible "infections".
Kaspersky also recommends that users install a trusted security solution on their device, which aims to protect users' privacy and personal information from mobile threats.