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Web ads most popular mobile malware attack

New research suggests that adverts placed on websites are now the biggest source of mobile malware attacks and distribution for smart phones. Prior to this new statistic, pornography had been the biggest distributor of mobile malware, however, claims by security company Blue Coat suggest that web adverts are now by far the most common method of dispensing malware across mobile platforms.

The research conducted by the well established security company concludes that one in five mobile malware cases are caused by interaction with adverts placed on websites. Although mobile malware is on the increase, it still only accounts for 1% of all malware threats, according to Cisco.

The research continues to state that attacks from pornographic websites are still the most effective way of infecting mobile devices, however, adverts placed on websites are becoming more prevalent in distributing mobile malware. The shocking statistics reveal that less than 1% of all content requested on mobile devices is for pornographic material, however, the market is responsible for 16% of all mobile malware attacks.

Mobile malware attacks are most common in Android devices

Mobile malware attacks are most common in Android devices

The report stated that users who do access pornography from their smart phones are extremely susceptible to mobile malware. The report also states that adverts contribute to 12% of the requested content studied. However, this content is responsible for nearly 20% of all mobile malware attacks.

Although the adverts are often displayed through legitimate sites, they may contain hidden malicious code or redirects that contain malicious content. These are often known as “drive by downloads” and attempt to place malicious code into legitimate sites in order to compromise devices.

The risk of mobile malware spreading through adverts placed on websites has increased 3 fold since it was last looked at in 2012.  In Cisco’s 2014 annual security report, it was noted that mobile malware was only a small percentage of web malware, however, it was worth noting as mobile malware is a rapidly expanding area for malware authors. Additionally, as stated in Android and Java: Top Targets for Malware and Compromise in 2013, mobile malware is targeted at Android devices a large proportion of the time. Indeed, even when mobile malware is not targeted at Android devices, it is evident from the report that 70% of the time Android devices are the platform that becomes infected.

The final recommendation offered by Blue Coat and by Cyber Security News is to consider blocking web adverts on your mobile platforms to prevent becoming a victim of mobile malware attacks. Ad-blocking apps are available for both Android and Apple devices and allow the user to specify the ads to block and allow. These types of software will prevent the injection of malware via legitimate sites and prevent redirects to potentially harmful content. Additionally, settings in both devices can allow the user to prevent pop-up ads.

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