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Thursday, 13 November 2014 12:45

Melbourne, malware and android mobiles a lethal mix Featured

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Melbourne has the unenviable record as the Australian city most susceptible to malware threats, according to new research ranking it ahead of Brisbane, Perth and Sydney.

And, not only is Melbourne at the greatest risk of malware attacks, Melbournians who own android mobile phones are twice as likely as their Sydney counterparts to become victims of malicious software that can disrupt how their devices operate as well as gather their personal information.

The newly published research by the Australian arm of Helsinki-based security company F-Secure reveals that 18% of malware threats identified in Australia have occurred in Melbourne, while in suburban areas of the city South Yarra, just outside of the CBD, ranks first, with 10% of all threats identified.

Amongst other suburbs, 9% of malware threats were recorded in Sandgate, north of Brisbane; and 8% were identified in Merrylands, in Sydney’s west.

And, Brisbane ranks second amongst the CBD areas in capital cities (14%), with Perth coming in at third (11%), followed by Sydney at 9%.

According to Su Gim Goh, F-Secure’s Security Advisor in the Asia Pacific region, Melbournians are most likely to have their devices infected with malware “as they probably download more apps than other Australians”.

“However, regardless of where they live, all Australians should be taking control of protecting their personal data, considering the constantly changing threat landscape.”

“At F-Secure, we recommend that customers follow preventative measures that should be standard practice for anyone with a mobile phone or computer, including scanning all downloaded apps and setting up message barring – so they can live their digital lives freely.”

Goh says the vast majority of malware detected in Australia (55%) is classified as belonging to ‘possibly unwanted variant online’, and affect android mobiles. “This type of malware is a program or component that may be intrusive or inadvertently introduces privacy or security risks. Users typically accept the potential risk associated with the program, and elect to install and use the application.

And, be warned. According to F-Secure, the malware threats are typically designed to take money from unwitting users who install the apps, with 88% of the new families or variants featuring some way for the attacker to make a profit. One common method is the app sends text messages to a premium rate number; another is it charges a fee for a program that can normally be accessed for free.

F-Secure says aworrying trend is the ability for a type of ransomware to move across platforms, from personal computers to mobile devices, and locking access to a device until the user pays a ransom, usually by sending bitcoins to the attacker.

Internationally, F-Secure says it has seen a concerning rise in malware growth for the android platform in terms of the number of family and variant of mobile malware, from about 100 types per quarter in 2013, to about 300 per quarter this year.

Goh says most of the threats (about 99%) affect the android platform as it has an open app store ecosystem “that allows a tainted application to lurk into android mobile devices through third party stores”.

And, there’s a warning about the cost of cybercrime to Australia from F-Secure Australian Country Manager Adam Smith.

“In the Australian economy alone, the annual cost of cyber crime is staggering, at around $1.65 billion.

“Particularly in the lead-up to the holidays, consumers and merchants should protect themselves from card fraud, which happens more frequently than what you might think – 4,000 fraudulent transactions are recorded on average every day in Australia, and with internet shopping on the rise, more and more of these incidents are happening online and over Wi-Fi connections.

“Unsecured Wi-Fi access points are excellent sources of personal information such as credit card numbers and email logins for thieves. This type of information can potentially be passed over the Wi-Fi in plain text and quickly utilised for potential criminal gain.”

And, here’s F-Secure’s  top six security tips to help combat the malware threat:

1.     lock your device

2.     set up message barring

3.     use anti-theft protection

4.     scrutinise permission requests

5.     download only from trusted sources

6.     scan downloaded apps

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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