Online banking, mobile malware on the rise in the holiday season

According to Trend Micro, consumers are being placed at risk due to rising rates of malware aimed at online banking and malicious applications.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Holiday shoppers should be aware of a rise in malicious apps and malware designed to steal financial details, according to security experts.

In Trend Micro's Q3 2013 Security Roundup Report, the firm says that as Christmas once again comes around and consumers rely on Internet-based shopping and online banking, there has been a sizeable uptick in banking malware aimed at the theft of personal and financial details.

In addition, while Apple's iOS was once considered a safe haven against digital threats, the lucrative market for financial details is fueling an ongoing proliferation of Apple iOS phishing sites.

Within the report, Trend Micro researchers say that after a spike in Q2 -- with 5,800 reported iOS phishing site creations in May -- 4,100 were detected in June, an additional 1,900 in August and 2,500 in September. This suggests that as consumers continue to purchase iOS-based mobile devices including the iPhone and iPad, a wealth of new iOS users are expected to be targeted through Q4.

In Q4, the tech giant sold a total of 33.8 million iPhones and 14.1 million iPads, both an increase in unit sales year-on-year.


When the company reviewed online banking and malware threats, Trend Micro identified over 200,000 infections in Q3. The U.S., Brazil and Japan were most targeted, accounting for 23 percent, 16 percent and 12 percent of all worldwide banking malware infections. In Europe, the top targeted countries -- Germany and France -- accounted for only five percent respectively, which may be due to the higher rates of multi-factor authentication requirements in use.

Trojans targeting online bankers surged within the quarter. Now no longer concentrated in particular regions, trojans including the ZeuS and ZBOT variations have surpassed the 200,000 mark, which is the highest number of infections recorded since 2002.

Many of the recorded infections in Q4 were distributed by spam emails. These trojans -- as well as new ZBOT variants including the KINS malware -- target services including Gmail and Yahoo in order to dupe users in to clicking malicious links, send them to replica websites, and record financial details input by users.

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In the mobile realm, cross-platform threats have continued to emerge. Including fake WhatsApp phishing emails which send users to premium services through their mobile devices, spoof banks, financial services and institutions are all being hit with criminal campaigns especially tailored for smartphones and tablets.

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According to data gathered between January and September this year, the rate of mobile device-based phishing websites created has shot up by 53 percent year-on-year. In addition, 42 percent of the total spoof sites analyzed in Q4 were designed to portray banks and financial institutions. Once installed on a mobile device, many trojans are able to perform activities including the deletion of data, contact list access and communication monitoring. 

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JD Sherry, vice president of technology and solutions at Trend Micro said:

"As consumers gravitate to the convenience of online banking, criminals are developing tools at an exceedingly rapid pace to exploit a general lack of awareness. In addition, Apple has been traditionally perceived as a safe-haven against threats, but our findings reveal that personal information can be jeopardized as phishing scams that target the platform continue to gain momentum.

This evidence suggests a potential perfect storm looming in the holiday season as busy commercial and consumer users leverage mobile platforms."

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