APWG Mobile Financial Fraud report & mobile black market

Pierluigi Paganini May 06, 2013

APWG published the interesting study APWG Mobile Financial Fraud report on the underground marketplace that revealed the explosion of prolific mobile fraud malware market.

The APWG Mobile Financial Fraud report resumed The Anti-Phishing Mobile Working Group investigating on the expansion of the black market for mobile malicious code, the study is crucial to understand the evolution of criminal activities and to put in place the proper action to mitigate the growing cyber threats that abuse of mobile platforms.

The rapid diffusion of mobile devices as attracted the cybercrime industry that is taking advantage of sales of smart mobile phones and mobile devices.

In the next few years global mobile payments are predicted to exceed $1.3tn and number of mobile devices is surpassing the number of PCs, by 2015 it is estimated there will be 2 billion + mobile devices, criminal organization are investing in mobile technologies to realize new fraud schema and frauds.

The mobile device are small devices equipped with any kind of technology (GPS, accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, proximity sensors, microphones, cameras and radio (cellular, Bluetooth, Wi‐Fi, RFID, NFC), that is used to interact with the user and the world around him.

Attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in these components for profit or cyber espionage purposes, as the APWG Mobile Financial Fraud report states there are genuine concerns over privacy.

The APWG Mobile Financial Fraud report defines existing malware markets explaining how cyber criminals operate, the principal products sold in the emerging underground mobile market are malware, pocket botnets and attack services designed to steal money from the victims.

The APWG Mobile Financial Fraud report a great interest also a large diffusion of “track and trace” intrusion techniques used to spy on user’s usage for intelligence purposes.

Virustotal currently states  5.6 million reported potentially malicious files for Android (APK, dyn‐calls, checks‐GPS, etc.) of which 1.3 million are confirmed malicious by 2 or more AV vendors.

APWG Mobile Financial Fraud report  Global Mobile Threat

The The APWG Mobile Financial Fraud report listed the following principal vulnerabilities exploited for mobile devices:

  • Architecture
  • Infrastructure
  • Hardware vulnerabilities
  • Permission systems
  • Software vulnerabilities
  • Communication/delivery channels (Wi‐Fi, SMS, Bluetooth)
  • Near Field Communication
  • PtH (Passing the Hash)

Once identified the different components of mobile architecture and the vulnerabilities that could affect its component the author of the APWG Mobile Financial Fraud proposed intriguing data on the pricing of the offer in the underground to exploit the flaw identified:

APWG Mobile Financial Fraud report Pricing underground

The mobile malware underground market appears very active, it is able to propose continuously new products and customized development to respond to the customer’s demand.

The contributors of the APWG Mobile Financial Fraud report highlighted the capabilities of cybercriminals to manipulate the market and maximize the potential of advertising on underground forums and social networking sites.

The market offers not only malware, it also gives all the instruments for cyber espionage purposes using the tools used traditionally for penetration testing and adapted for mobile devices.

The monetization of mainly realized by criminals through underground partnership programs principally realized with SMS scams.

“Unsolicited SMS or calls to expensive numbers in different countries run up large bills to the credit of the billing provider. Some underground cybercrime services take advantage of mobile traffic using targeted attacks to download software which is charged on the basis of “Pay Per Install” (PPI).” the report states.

When we discuss of malware and cyber attacks we cannot forget zero-day exploits, the APWG Mobile Financial Fraud report revealed that t 0-days underground market is rising up too with a various and efficient offer especially for Android.

The offer for zero-day exploits is usually verticalised on specific brands (i.e. Samsung, Huawei), “and handset models, which will then be “weaponized” and used massively to distribute mobile malware campaigns”.

As written in my previous article, mobile botnets have passed are a serious threat because they are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

The architectures and the monetization strategy related to mobile botnets are the similar for classical botnet malware for PCs,  botnets can be used to redirect the traffic on mobiles to a malicious website, for the purpose of monetizing or to conduct a DDoS Attack such as the case of the malware Android.DDoS.1.origin, detected for Android platforms.

APWG Mobile Financial Fraud report mobile botnet

The APWG Mobile Financial Fraud report revealed also the diffusion in the mobile black market of dedicated tools which make the building of a botnet for the ‘wouldbe’ botmaster, these kits allow unskilled criminals to easily manage a malicious architecture.

Meaningful the last statements that close the report:

“The mobile malware market is already alive and thriving. Only an integrated, global response based on cooperation, education and awareness can limit its success.”

The report is a mine of interesting information, I publicly thanks Jart Armin for the effort and the passion he spends in the fight against the cybercrime.

A special thanks also to other two contributors with whom I’m in direct contact, Andrey Komarov and Raoul Chiesa.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Cybercrime, mobile)

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