Spyware on the rise as hackers target smart devices

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Security threats on mobile networks have moved away from smartphones and back onto personal computers and laptops, new research from Alcatel-Lucent has found.

During the first half of this year, the vendor found 80 percent of malware infections on mobile networks came from Windows-based computers connected via dongles, mobile Wi-Fi or tethered to smartphones.

This is a marked difference from the previous two years, where infections were broadly split between devices running Android and Windows.

The vendor also revealed that spyware is an increasingly popular method of attacking smartphones, accounting for 10 out of the 25 most prolific threats. Spyware is usually bundled with games or free software and can track an owner's movements or behaviour.

Adware is also getting more sophisticated, attempting to phish consumers and conduct fraud. It cited the example of BetterSurf, which offers free applications or games. When it installed, it causes pop-ups across Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome browsers.

Patrick Tan, General Manager of Network Intelligence at Alcatel-Lucent said: “The modern smartphone presents the perfect platform for corporate and personal espionage, information theft, denial of service attacks on businesses and governments, and banking and advertising scams.

"It can be used simply as a tool to photograph, film, record audio, scan networks and immediately transmit results to a safe site for analysis.”

Other threats include "scareware", which tries to extort money by claiming a device has been encrypted, banking Trojans that try to steal account details and proxy apps that allow hackers to browse the web through another's smartphone.

Meanwhile, Alcatel-Lucent has bought Mformation, a security and device management platform for the Internet of Things.

The platform offers security and control for connected devices in the automotive, health, utilities, manufacturing and smart home sectors.

Alcatel-Lucent said the buy will boost its own Motive Customer Experience Management solution. It said security is an important area within the IoT, as networks become increasing virtualised.

Bhaskar Gorti, President of Alcatel-Lucent’s IP Platforms business said: “As connected devices become an ever increasing part of our social and economic fabric, we need to ensure that these devices, and the networks they navigate, are secure, reliable and efficient. Mformation’s cloud-enabled IoT platform will enable our customers to rapidly deploy IoT services that can be trusted and managed efficiently.”