McAfee’s Mobile Threat Report 2021 on hackers

McAfee’s Mobile Threat Report 2021 said hackers are using fake apps, Trojans and fraudulent messages to target consumers.
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Last year, McAfee revealed that hidden apps were the most active mobile threat facing consumers. The report said McAfee’s researchers shed light on how hackers are targeting anxiety about COVID-19 and demand for vaccines with bogus apps, text messages, and social media invitations.

Judith Bitterli, Senior Vice President, Consumer Business Group at McAfee, said: “Mobile threats remain prevalent in our world and as fraudsters use more advanced methods, this will only continue. We aim to support consumers in safeguarding their personal devices and more importantly, personal data.”

McAfee Advanced Threat researchers found that hackers are hiding malware and malicious links inside fakes vaccination appointments and registration display ads. These have the potential to download malware onto a person’s device that displays unwanted ads, as well as activating accessibility features to give the hacker full device control, with the goal of stealing banking details and credentials.

McAfee Mobile Threat Report 2021 highlights

COVID-related malware: According to the McAfee COVID-19 Dashboard, more than 90 percent of all pandemic-related malware took the form of Trojans. McAfee researchers found evidence of an SMS worm targeting Indian consumers, forming one of the earliest vaccine fraud campaigns.

Both SMS and WhatsApp messages encouraged users to download a vaccine app and once downloaded, malware sent itself to everyone in the user’s contact list via SMS or WhatsApp. The malware behind this is the same family that was involved in India’s ban on the Tik-Tok app last July.

Billing fraud malware that makes purchases behind the backs of consumers: McAfee researchers have also uncovered new information on mobile malware dubbed Etinu. Targeting users in Southwest Asia and the Middle East predominately, Etinu was found being distributed via Google Play, with more than 700K downloads before being detected and removed.

Once an app harbouring this malware is installed via the Google Play Store, the malware steals incoming SMS messages using a Notification Listener function. It can then make purchases and sign up for premium services and subscriptions that get charged to the user’s account.

Hackers are using banking Trojans to target hundreds of financial institutions around the world: McAfee Mobile Security detected a 141 percent increase in Banking Trojan activity between Q3 and Q4 2020.

Most Banking Trojans are distributed via mechanisms such as phishing SMS messages to avoid Google’s screening process. During its research, McAfee discovered Brazilian Remote Access Tool Android (BRATA) – a popular banking Trojan – that repeatedly managed to get onto the Google Play store and as a result, tricked thousands of users into downloads.

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