April 14th, 2014
Last week, news of the Heartbleed bug, which threatens the integrity of HTTPS enabled websites worldwide, broke. In addition to a worry that important data sent between users and websites could be compromised and stolen, there is also a concern that mobile services could be vulnerable. Stephanie Mlot at PC Mag explains how Heartbleed threatens the security of Android users specifically.
Naturally, Google was among the most potentially costly sites should users fall victim to Heartbleed. Not only are Google’s services among the most used online, but they also have access to a lot of personal information that is extremely valuable to criminals. So, Google set out early to patch their services and protect their users.
So far, Google services Search, Gmail, YouTube, Wallet, Play, Apps, AdWords, Maps and Earth have all been patched.
For the Android crowd, every version of the mobile operating system is safe from Heartbleed save for Android 4.1.1. It’s unknown exactly how many users have this version installed on their devices, but some iteration of Android 4.1 is being used by more than a third of Android users. It’s estimated that the number of affected users is in the millions and devices affected include popular manufacturers Samsung and HTC.
A Google spokesperson stated that patching information is being distributed to manufacturers, but this slow process is one of the main issues regarding Android security. Unlike Apple, which can push updates and patches to all of its users directly, Android users must wait for each manufacturer to tailor patches to their specific environment. In cases like this one, that can leave users and data vulnerable to known exploits for days and even weeks.
Blackberry has released a statement informing users that a fix for their Android devices will be made available by the end of the week. Other manufacturers have been quiet, however.
The best option for users in the meantime is to assume that data can be stolen from their device. If your Android device uses the 4.1.1 operating system, which can be checked in the Settings menu under ‘About Phone’, don’t use your device to log-in to online accounts or to message personal information.
While users will have to wait for an official patch to protect themselves from Heartbleed, for any other problems with your Android device or other mobile devices, come by Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.
March 24th, 2014
Regardless of what mobile operating system you use, there’s bound to be some security flaws. The latest issue is a way for malicious apps on Android devices to receive elevated privileges without a user’s knowledge. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes of ZDNet reports on these so-called “Pileup flaws”.
Pileup is short for privilege escalation through updating, which adequately describes this type of attack.
Each time an update for a device’s current operating system is installed, which can be as often as every few months, a user is at risk. Updates require thousands of files to either be replaced or added to a device. This includes carefully adding new apps without damaging or changing any existing apps. This method creates a vulnerability.
If an existing app is malicious in nature, it’s developer can request additional permissions that are only available in an updated operating system. Those permissions won’t affect users before they update and an app may seem legitimate. Once the user updates, however, those permissions are automatically granted with no warning or verification required from the user.
This way, an app can lay dormant until the user updates, then take control of a device. With expanded privileges, malicious apps can control text messages, download malware and monitor activity.
In a similar attack, malicious apps with the same name as a trusted system app can be upgraded to a system app during an update. This gives malicious third party apps the power to access nearly everything on a device and control functions.
Researchers claim to have found six examples of Pileup vulnerabilities in Android devices, which puts about a billion total devices at risk. Google has been alerted about these vulnerabilities and has already begun patching them.
Discoveries like this reinforce how important it is to exercise caution when downloading apps. Only download from the official app store and, even then, be cautious about what you decide to add to your device.
If your device has been infected with malware or you’re having other issues, bring it to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.
March 10th, 2014
A common piece of security advice is to regularly update your antivirus program to protect against the latest threats. New malware is formed every day and it’s difficult for security applications to keep up, but it’s impossible if they aren’t updated daily. Alastair Stevenson illustrates the need for up to date definitions with his report at V3 that three new threats emerge every second of every day.
That statistic comes from security company McAfee’s Threat Report from the fourth quarter of 2013. Part of that report reveals that McAfee learned of 200 new attacks every minute, which likely means that the number of new attacks being launched is actually even higher.
Overall, in just the fourth quarter in 2013, 200-million malware variants were found by McAfee. That’s 90-million more than was found during the same time span in 2012. Experts believe one reason for this significant increase in malware production is the increase in “Point of Sale” malware, which refers to variants that are available to be purchased online by anyone and used without a need for expertise. This allows nearly anyone to launch an attack.
Malware isn’t targeting PC users alone, however. The report states that nearly 2.5-million new forms of malware targeting Android mobile devices was collected. That’s significantly lower than the amount of malware targeting PC users, but it’s nearly double the output of mobile malware from just a year prior.
Ransomware, the malware that encrypts or locks down files on your PC and demands payment to give you access to them, also saw a large jump in number of attacks in 2013. After 1-million observed forms of ransomware attacks in 2012, 2013 saw about 2-million.
The clear lesson here is that security on your personal devices and your company’s network is becoming even more important as more attacks are being produced and those attacks are becoming more intelligent.
For help improving security or help recovering from an infection or attack, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
February 17th, 2014
It’s become well-known that more threats exist for Android users than exist for users of Apple devices. One of the reasons that malware often targets the Android operating system is because of the relative insecurity of the app store, Google Play. Malicious apps have repeatedly infiltrated Google Play and infected users. According to a post at GMA News, a number of malicious apps are currently available through the app store and they’ve already infected more than 300-thousand users.
Though the names of specific apps aren’t named, there are believed to be a number of apps responsible for malware infections. These apps typically pose as legitimate versions of other apps, or as different versions of popular, or trendy, apps. Most recently, the game Flappy Bird, which was taken out of app stores, has spawned a number of malicious copycats.
When a user mistakenly downloads one of these malicious apps, it steals the users phone number and uses it to sign up for a premium SMS service. This ends with additional fees being included on a user’s monthly bill. The attacker likely receives some sort of commission for bringing additional users to the service.
Part of this process involves the malware intercepting messages sent to a user’s smartphone and sending messages without the user’s knowledge. Because the premium service needs confirmation before it can begin to charge you, the malware must intercept the confirmation message containing a PIN, then send a message back with that PIN.
To gain access to a user’s phone number, the malware uses a vulnerability in the popular messaging app, WhatsApp. Even though users without WhatsApp could become download a malicious app and be infected, it’s not clear if the malware would have the same capabilities.
To avoid downloading an app that will infect your smartphone, be sure to carefully read the permissions the app requires. These malicious apps clearly state in their permissions that they read text messages and need a connection to the internet. While some apps needs those permissions legitimately, most do not. If an app asks for permissions they shouldn’t need, it’s best to avoid downloading.
If your smartphone is infected by malware, bring it to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.
February 14th, 2014
There are a number of advantages to becoming a more mobile business. Employees are able to access data from virtually anywhere, which can make them more productive and give them access to vital information when meeting with clients. It’s also much easier for them to collaborate with others. There’s also the bring your own device trend that allows employees to integrate their own mobile devices into their work. All of these allow for more productivity and connectivity, but they also all introduce new security concerns. At Network World, Ed Tittel lists some best practices all business owners should be familiar with for dealing with mobile security.
With more smartphones being used worldwide and more valuable data being accessed with them, it stands to reason that they’re becoming a more valuable target for criminals. Attacks have been observed on both iOS and Android devices. For devices that are used to access company data, you can’t afford to let them connect to your network without proper security apps in place.
Typically, mobile communications are relatively easy for hackers to intercept. That’s why most experts recommend the use of a VPN, or virtual private network, to encrypt all communications between mobile devices and company servers. Cloud storage and an employee’s smartphone may both be properly protected, but when data is transferred between them there exists a vulnerability. Using a VPN eliminates that threat.
If a device is used to access company data, it should be secured with multiple forms of authentication. It goes without saying that smartphones should require a password to unlock, but newer devices also allow for fingerprint scanning or even facial or vocal recognition. In addition, companies need to plan ahead for cases when devices are lost or stolen. The ability to remotely lock and wipe lost devices is vital to security.
Once an employee begins using their mobile device for work, they lose the ability to use whatever software they choose. There must be some consideration to the security of the device and the company’s data. Completely blocking the downloading and using of third party software is one way. Another is to allow exceptions once IT or management is informed that an individual wants to download a third party application and it’s been cleared.
If you feel that you’ve put all the necessary precautions into place, you need to test to make sure there are no penetration points you’ve missed. How else will you be sure that your company’s data is protected from threats? Regular testing allows you to find vulnerabilities before the criminals do.
For help with the security at your business, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
January 31st, 2014
Even though 2014 is only a month old, it’s already become clear that this year will feature many large scale malware attacks on smartphones and mobile devices. Mobile security has been a focus for many this year because of the growing number of attacks being seen and the malware being produced specifically for the mobile audience. At SC Magazine, Adam Greenberg reports on the latest mobile malware threat that has already infected more than 350-thousand devices.
The malware targets Android devices and has been spotted in China, Spain, Brazil, Germany and the United States. Known as Android.Oldboot.1.origin, the malware operates as a bootkit and is difficult to remove.
The malware is designed to download and install new applications to your device, or even remove existing applications. This allows for additional malicious applications to be added and security apps to be removed.
The particularly noteworthy characteristic of this malware is how resilient it is. During the initial infection, the malware, which is categorized as a trojan, is extracted when the device is turned on. This makes it more difficult to detect than other malware that attempt extraction while the device is in operation. That also allows it to continue to infect a device even when most traces of the trojan have been removed. As long as part of the malware remains in the device’s memory, it is reinstalled and extracted every time the device is rebooted.
This particular threat seems to follow a more complicated infection method that involves reflashing a device with new firmware. Staying safe from most mobile malware, however, stems from being extremely cautious of what you download to your device and what links you follow.
If any of your devices are suffering from a malware infection, come by Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.
January 28th, 2014
Generally, pieces of malware only harmful to the devices they target. For example, malware designed for Windows won’t be harmful to mobile devices, or vice versa. However, researchers have seen examples of malware that infects Android devices with the ultimate goal of infecting a PC connected to them. Now, as the Symantec blog reports, there is evidence of malware that infects PCs with the ultimate goal of infecting an Android device that connects via USB.
So far, there’s been no official word about how the malware, known as Trojan.Droidpak, infects PCs. Once it’s downloaded, the trojan begins adding malicious files to your system. First, a DLL registers itself as a system service. Then, a configuration file is automatically downloaded. Then a malicious APK and ADB (Android Debug Bridge). If an Android device is connected to the infected PC, an installation of the APK and ADB files is attempted repeatedly to ensure infection of the mobile device.
To be successful, the malware requires USB debugging mode to be enabled. To check if your phone allows debugging mode, go to ‘Applications’ in the settings menu. Then, select ‘Development’ and you’ll see an option to allow debugging mode when your phone is connected to a PC via USB.
If the malware successfully infects your smartphone or tablet, it disguises itself as an application called ‘Google App Store’ that even steals the Play Store logo. This particular trojan specifically looks for banking applications. When found, a user is prompted to delete that version of the banking app and replace it. The replacement app is a malicious version used to steal financial data and log-ins. The malware is also able to intercept text messages and forward them to a third party.
The good news is that currently the trojan only targets Korean banking apps, but it’s easy to see how this malware could be adjusted to start targeting US Android users. Turning off USB debugging mode is a good start and you should also turn off the AutoRun feature on your PC when connecting another device.
If your PC, smartphone, tablet or any of your devices are infected with malware, bring them to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.
January 23rd, 2014
The amount of malware being produced to infect Android devices is growing rapidly. Usually, it’s easy to avoid being infected by only downloading apps from Google’s Play Store and only visiting trusted sites. It’s also generally easy to spot signs of an infection. At State of Security, Anthony M. Freed reports on the latest malware threat for Android that defies these conventions.
It’s called Android.He.He and it’s able to intercept both phone calls and text messages of infected devices. While similar malware that either intercepts calls or messages or sends them will leave evidence in your call log or text message history. Android.He.He not only deletes any evidence that a call or message was ever sent to your phone, it even keeps any notification from popping up at the time of the call or message.
The malware infects users by posing as a security update to the operating system running on their device. Once downloaded, an app called Android Security is added, but the malware is even capable of hiding this apps existence from the user.
It seems these attacks are highly targeted because the malware uses a predetermined list of phone numbers. When one of these numbers attempts to contact an infected the device, the malware intercepts it. This would seem to work best for targeted attacks against specific users, but could also work for general attacks by using numbers of popular credit card companies, banks and other organizations that may give attackers an opportunity to steal valuable information.
This supposed security update is not found in the Google Play Store and, while it could be sent to users directly, it is usually first encountered in an ad advising you to update your operating system, or in a third party app store.
It’s important to put security apps in place to protect you from some threats, but unfortunately security for mobile devices is lagging behind attackers. For that reason, it’s also vital to avoid putting yourself in a potentially harmful situation, like downloading apps from an ad or untrusted source.
If any of your devices are infected with malware, bring it to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.
January 22nd, 2014
Worldwide there are more Android devices than Apple devices and the gap is steadily increasing. That’s likely the main reason that more malware is being produced for Androids. As Rohan Swamy reports for NDTV, a recent report from Cisco illustrates just how at risk Android users are.
Nearly three-quarters of web delivered malware targets Android devices. That’s a troubling statistic, but even worse is that over the past few months, 99 out of every 100 mobile devices that are infected with malware are Androids. This suggests that Android users aren’t taking proper precautions despite there being more risks targeting them.
Before you abandon Android for the relative safe harbor of Apple’s products, consider this. Only about 1-percent of malware attacks have a specific target. Most devices become infected because they take unnecessary risks. Downloading content from untrusted sources and visiting untrusted websites are both common ways to encounter malware.
In fact, the most common piece of malware on Android devices comes from a legal app that can’t be found in the Google Play store. Instead, it must be downloaded from third-party app stores that don’t thoroughly check the legitimacy of their apps. If users stick to officially recognized apps and only download trusted items, they greatly reduce their risk of a malware infection, regardless of what device they use.
The open source nature of Android may have a large affect on the activity of Android users. Whereas Apple users seem to only download official apps, Android users are more likely to download from unofficial sources because there are more developers making innovative products for Android.
The way to keeping your smartphone free of malware is the same way you keep your computer clean. Put security tools in place and use safe surfing techniques. Stay off untrustworthy sites and only download from official sources.
If any of your devices are infected with malware, bring them to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.
December 24th, 2013
The amount of malware for smartphones grew exponentially throughout 2013. Because of its open source environment and number of users, Android phones were targeted most. Now, it seems some of the same tactics used for years by cyber criminals on PCs are transitioning to Android smartphones. Satnam Narang reports for Symantec that scareware has been observed attempting to trick users into downloading malware to their devices.
Scareware is a common practice used by hackers. By using social engineering, a criminal convinces a user that they’re facing an impending threat and need to buy or download a product to protect themselves. Usually, the scareware scam involves telling users that there is a virus or malware on their device and offering to remove it.
The latest scam observed targeting Android users involves mobile ads. They claim the user’s device has been infected by a trojan called MobileOS/Tapsnake. Tapsnake is a legitimate threat to Android users that’s been around since 2010, but it’s used here only to make the scam seem more credible. The ads include a button that claims to install a security app on your phone or scan and remove this threat. In actuality, you’re downloading malware.
Avoiding this type of scam should be simple. First, no online ad will scan your device and alert you of any malware it discovers. But, some unsuspecting users fall for it because they’re extremely worried about threats to their smartphone. This particular scareware displays on any smartphone, however. So, even iPhone users will be alerted that their Android device is at risk.
If you encounter on of these ads and are concerned about your phone, run your existing security app or download a trusted one from the Play store. To avoid accidentally downloading a malicious app, never download directly from a website.
If your smartphone has actually been infected by malware, bring it to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.