Smartphones & Tablets . . . Sales & Crime Up Up Up
Smartphones and tablets are outselling PCs. More than 1 billion of these hand-
held computers are expected to be sold worldwide in the next few years, according
to Forrester, the technology research and analysis firm. And the tsunami crime
wave in this post-PC era, the theft of stored personal information, is arriving.
According to Lookout, the mobile-security firm, “as the mobile economy gains
momentum, it continues to capture the attention of malware writers. . . . Mobile
security [is] a global issue, with Toll Fraud, a type of malware designed for profit,
emerging as the lead threat. Over the past year . . . millions of people were affected
by malware worldwide with millions of dollars stolen from consumers.”
Clearly, mobile malware creators have found a business model that works for them.
It should be noted:
• In 2013, malware threats are rapidly outpacing spyware threats by possibly
as much as 4:1 – a dramatic increase from 2012, when they were more or
• This notable rise in Toll Fraud malware (malware designed for profit that
works by billing an unsuspecting victim through premium SMS services)
reveals this massive increase can be primarily attributed to a single type –
FakeInst. It is also referred to as RuSMSMarket, OpFake, Fakebrows and
• Classified as a “Fake Installer,” FakeInst pretends to act as an installer
for legitimate popular apps such as “Opera Browser” (hence OpFake and
Fakebrows) or “WhatsApp Messenger.”
• While this Toll Fraud malware is designed to exploit, its greatest threat may
unintentional – the permanent damage to hand-held devices. After all, what
criminal enterprise wants to bite the hand that’s feeding it?
The likelihood a device contains malware or spyware is heavily dependent on
geography. It varies. According to Lookout, it goes from a low of .04% in Japan
to a high of almost 42% in China, Russia and Eastern Europe (in other words, a
high probability that the Android or iPhone is infected right after an app use).
What can the hand-held user do? Several things:
• Set a passcode immediately (this is a “no brainer”)
• Only use trusted app sources when downloading (a “no brainer”).
• Download and install firmware updates as soon as available (another “no
• Beware free apps and downloads – these may be pirated.
• Make sure web-link addresses match what websites they claim to be.
• Download a trusted mobile security app.
• Check the monthly phone bill. Mysterious charges and usage could show a
device is infected.
• Check battery life. A suddenly decrease could be a warning that a device is
A word to the wise from The Blanch Law Firm:
• While presently this malware is active in other parts of the world, it won’t be
long before it is more visible here in the U.S.
• New forms of international cybercrime will rise.
• Malware designers are already experimenting . . . to create a network of
control within the global mobile system, to trick legitimate market tools and
• Given how pervasive and deep-rooted Toll Fraud is, U.S. federal authorities
will come down hard on defendants.
• New forms of criminal defense will be needed. Our firm is already
anticipating these defenses.
— Stephen Heath-Jones