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Nokia threat report reveals IoT security vulnerabilities

Steve Rogerson
March 30, 2017
Nokia’s latest Threat Intelligence Report reveals an all-time high in mobile device malware infections, a sharp increase in compromised smartphones and major IoT device security vulnerabilities.
Issued twice a year, the report examines general trends and statistics for infections in devices connected through mobile and fixed networks around the world.
The report exposed major vulnerabilities in the rapidly expanding universe of IoT devices, underscoring the need for the industry to re-evaluate its IoT deployment strategies to ensure these devices are securely configured, managed and monitored.
"The security of IoT devices has become a major concern,” said Kevin McNamee, head of the Nokia’s Threat Intelligence Lab. “The Mirai botnet attacks last year demonstrated how thousands of unsecured IoT devices could easily be hijacked to launch crippling DDoS attacks. As the number and types of IoT devices continue to proliferate, the risks will only increase.”
He said Nokia's network-based security could help address this growing threat by detecting activity before a DDoS attack occurs, enabling service providers to take corrective actions that mitigate the impact.
The latest report also revealed a steady increase in mobile device infections throughout 2016, with malware striking 1.35 per cent of all mobile devices in October, the highest level seen since reporting started in 2012. The report revealed a surge of nearly 400 per cent in smartphone malware attacks in 2016. Smartphones were the most-targeted devices in the second half of the year, accounting for 85 per cent of all mobile device infections.
While Android-based smartphones and tablets continued to be the primary targets, reflecting the prevalence of the operating system worldwide, iOS-based devices also suffered attacks in the second half of the year, primarily by Spyphone surveillance software that tracks users' calls, text messages, social media applications, web searches, GPS locations and other activities.
Key findings of the report include:

  • Major IoT device vulnerabilities: In late 2016, the Mirai botnet assembled an army of compromised IoT devices to launch three of the largest DDoS attacks in history, including an assault that took down many high-profile web services. These attacks underscored the urgent requirement for more robust security capabilities to protect IoT devices from future attacks and exploitation. 
  • Mobile device infection rate continues to climb: The overall infection rate increased 63 per cent in the second half of 2016, compared with the first half of the year.
  • New all-time high: The mobile device infection rate rose steadily throughout 2016, reaching 1.35 per cent in October – versus 1.06 per cent in April 2016 – the highest level recorded since the study started in 2012.
  • Smartphones the top target: Smartphones were the top malware targets by far, accounting for 85 per cent of all mobile device infections in the second half of 2016. Smartphone infections increased 83 per cent during this period compared with the first half of the year (0.90 versus 0.49 per cent), and increased nearly 400 per cent in 2016.
  • Malware seeks a bite out of Apple: Android-based devices continue to be the primary target for malware attacks (81 per cent). However, iOS and other mobile devices were also targeted in the second half of the year (four per cent).
  • Decrease in Windows PC infections: Windows PC systems accounted for 15 per cent of malware infections in the second half of 2016, down from 22 per cent in the first half of the year.
  • Fixed network infections continue decline: The monthly infection rate in residential fixed broadband networks averaged 10.7 per cent in the second half of 2016, down from 12 per cent in the first half, and down from 11 per cent in late 2015. While moderate threat level adware activity decreased in the second half of 2016, high-level threats (for example bots, rootkits, keyloggers and banking Trojans) remained steady at approximately six per cent.