McAfee Labs warns of mobile app ‘collusion’ in latest security report


It comes as no surprise to anyone that the mobile security landscape is as competitive as ever, and the latest warning from McAfee Labs examines mobile app ‘collusion’ – two or more apps being manipulated together to orchestrate attacks.

The report from McAfee, now a part of Intel Security, gives the specific definition as “two or more apps that can carry out harmful activity together using interapp communications in a collaborative fashion.” This requires an app with permission to access restricted information, one app without that permission but with access outside the device, and the ability to communicate between each other.

There are three main ways attackers will create colluding apps, the researchers argue. The first is to split malicious and privacy-violating functions between apps, for instance managing contacts and weather updates; the second is to create a library which could be included in various apps but having the ability to communicate with each other; and the third is to exploit a vulnerability in a third party app or library.

McAfee argues that there are three main types of threats; information, financial, such as an app sending information to another that can execute financial transactions or make financial API calls, and service misuse. “It should not come as a surprise that adversaries have responded to mobile security efforts with new threats that attempt to hide in plain sight,” said Vincent Weafer, VP of Intel Security’s McAfee Labs group. “Our goal is to make it increasingly harder for malicious apps to gain a foothold on our personal devices, developing smarter tools and techniques to detect colluding mobile apps.”

Elsewhere, Samsung has announced a ‘first of its kind’ mobile security offering in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton which helps provide enterprises with security assessments specific for mobile.

“The goal is to ensure that organisations have the proper mobile security strategy, policies and SSL connectivity for their needs and business objectives,” wrote Sam Phillips, VP and CISO Samsung Business Services in a blog post. “With this model, organisations can address issues specific to mobile environments, such as discovering what’s needed to prevent data from leaking when a device is lost or stolen, or how to efficiently capture mobile logs to track activity.” Clients will receive a two day mobile security workshop and a comprehensive security assessment for their troubles.

McAfee argues in its report that ransomware samples rose 24% over the last quarter, while new mobile malware samples grew by 17%.

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