Four main malware classifications

An Overview of Malware Targeting iOS and

Android Platforms and Preventative Measures

Society relies on mobile devices to stay organized, communicate with various individuals, document life’s moments, and encapsulate the daily activity of mobile device users. Utilizing the capabilities of consistently traveling with a miniature computer creates a technological connection to users throughout the world at any time. The increased exposure provides an opportunity for a malevolent operator to pry on defenseless users and flaws within a system. Programs or code developed and transmitted onto a device’s framework to harm, steal data, spy, or control, fall under the term malware. A rapidly growing subsection, mobile malware, focuses on infiltrating mobile operating systems (OSs). Considering that most do not go to the same lengths to protect their mobile devices as they do their computer, the number of active devices continues to rise, and observing behind-the-scenes activity is not blatantly accessible. In 2019, Kaspersky mobile products and technologies detected 3,503,952 malicious installation packages, 69,777 new mobile banking Trojans, and 68,362 new mobile ransomware Trojans (Chebyshev). Mobile malware molds into many forms to acquire a range of desired results by considering the specific weaknesses of OSs. Providing insight into the spectrum of malicious attacks, expanding on appropriate security measures, the history behind mobile malware, organization concerns, and preventative measures will be pertinent.

Understanding the intent of the malware creates a valuable starting point for examining its attack vector progression through a device. An attack vector is “a method or pathway used by a hacker to access or penetrate the target system (Sumo Logic).”The common motive behind infiltrating a device stems from the determination to exfiltrate, tamper with, or destroy data; if not an elaborate combination.Exfiltration includes pulling data from the target device by physical actions such as printing device files or transferring a full file copy to a UBS or remote actions like executing a data dump or pulling sensitive credentials. Jailbreaking target’s device and opening and modifying applications classify as tampering with data. Lastly, destroying files and corrupting the kernel result in data loss.No matter which implementation an attacker attempts to peruse, an efficient infection agenda progresses from four overall steps: research, infect, revisit, act. First, when a hacker discovers a vulnerability,identifying the impacted devices and researching the tools and exploits already available provides awareness to possible opportunities and what loose ends may need to be improved before involving a target. Next, once a target is acquired, and the program is ready to deploy, the infection process opens a connection to view the contents of the device. Considering mobile companies strive to hastily patch vulnerabilities, invaders create back doors for swift reentrance to the infected area.Once the infected device contains a remigration gateway, the attacker may now take the necessary actions to fulfill the chosen motives desired or, if plausible, penetratedeeper by escalating privilege and bypassing security containment to gain access to more sensitive data.

Infecting a mobile device withmalware depends on the type of OS, the security methods and protocols employed in the hardware and software, and the competency and technical knowledge of the user.Lookout, the leader in cloud-delivered security for the post-perimeter world, categories most mobile attack threats into three categories: app-based threats, device-based threats, and network-based threats (Lookout).Many users download applications and accept their permissions without considering the logistics behind the permissions. For instance, Apple’s iPad does not come preinstalled with a calculator requiring downloading one from the App Store. While the process may seem natural to accept all permission to some when opening the calculator, a prompt to give the application access to the device’s location appears. Logically, a mathematical tool should not need to gather a device’s location data; while cautious handlers may decline the permission, others accept to avoid confrontation or problems down the line. Hackers exploit app-based threatsupon careless, naïve operators using fraudulent apps or background commands to attempt to create in-app purchases for profit, gathering credentials to apply towards legitimate servers, and gain access to secure networks, or send fake updates acquiring full access to the device’s OS.

Vulnerabilities leading to full access to the device’s OS may progress to the exploitation of the root or kernel, resulting in free reign to all data, including encrypted files and drives. Device-based threats arise after jailbreaking a device, exposing sections and processes with elevated privilege that would otherwise be unattainable. Jailbroken or rooted devices abolish security limitations that mobile carriers established, uncovering a wide range of capabilities for the device owner. Albeit, the device’s subspecialty to infection increases, and privilege-escalation of malware are now simplified (McAfee). In network-based threats, no processes of infiltrating the device, creating backdoors, privilege escalation, or jailbreaking are required to obtain information. Instead, to find vulnerabilities and decrypt data, establish a desired target or network, obstructe communication between the device and the connected network, then execute a man-in-the-middle attack. This type of attack pulls numerous types of data, based on the tools and settings applied, to steal data, detect unusual or privacy-sensitive activity, and discover system information to expose possible vulnerabilities. Continuously evolving attack vectors inhibit mobile carriers from developing infallible hardware and software security measures.Most malware is premeditated,usually sprouting from previous versions of malware in the same classification yet blossoming into an innovative version bypassing the security implementations hindering the previous version.

The main four malware classifications consist of trojans, worms, spyware, and ransomware. Understanding the different help expand on the various ways to distribute malware.Adam Harkness, Mobility Industry author at NetMotion, offers concise, simplistic definitions:

Worms: Standalone malware designed to endlessly reproduce itself and spread to as many devices as possible. Mobile worms are usually transmitted via SMS/MMS text messages and typically do not require user interaction to be executed.

Trojans: Malware requiring user interaction to be activated and often found in seemingly non-malicious applications. Once activated, the malware can cause damage to the mobile device by infecting and deactivating other applications.

Spyware: Malware poses a threat by collecting and spreading a user’s personal information without the user’s consent or knowledge by synchronizing calendars, email accounts, notes, and other information with a remote server.

Ransomware: Malware encrypts user and demands a ransom be paid to the attacker. If the ransom is not paid, user files could be deleted or permanently locked.


These malicious techniques correlate with the motives discussed earlier, each one of these exfiltrates, tampers with,destroys, or uses a mixture of the three to manipulate data. Subclasses of each malware classificationencapsulate the overarching definition while focusing on obtaining unique variants. In particular, when dissecting the network-based threats, man-in-the-middle attacks classify as a remote access tool since the gathering device does not need a direct connection to the targeted device to collect data; rather, the only infiltration on the network. The key words‘remote’ and ‘collection’ imply remote access tools collecting information without the target’s knowledge and observing the device’s activity classifies as spyware.

Malware adaptability must surpass the security developments of mobile carriers by deciphering modern-day mobile needs and pastimes to adjust attacks accordingly. Many current examples of mobile malware stem from pre-existing computer-based malware. For example, WannaCry,the largest ransomware attack in history, gathered a healthy profit and enticed other conniving developers to bring the malwareclassification into the mobile world to develop mobile ransomware like Simplocker. In 2014, Simplocker became the first mobile ransomware to fully encrypting files using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), then displays a ransom note. Then, in 2015, the next version arose with more complex implementations and the execution of various clones from other developers. Author at Avast Software, a multinational cybersecurity software company, Stefanie Smith, states, “Nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and according to an Ericsson report, 70% of the world’s population will be using a smartphone by 2020 (Smith).” Converting computer malware to perform similarly on mobile devices generates a new audience comprised of two crucial parties. First, young generations who were born into the mobile device era, aging with the technology but unwary to the dangers and capabilities of malicious intrusions. Second, older generations that battled with the dawning of malware executions, who remain cautiouslyobstinate on educating themselves about the potential of new technologies and the encompassed risks.

The dispersal of mobile malware holds several consistencies from the peak of computer infiltration, such as distributing through non-secure Wi-Fi or websites, spoofing and phishing, rooting devices, out-of-date hardware and software vulnerabilities, and downloading malicious applications. Mobile device owners use unsecured Wi-Fi now like girls in the ’60s used hairspray on their beehive updos; excessively and unnecessarily. Symantec released a survey including 1,025 people in May 2016, determined:

  • 60 % of consumers believe their information is safe when on public Wi-Fi.
  • Only 50 % believe they should uphold any personal responsibility for ensuring that their data is secure.
  • Even though using public Wi-Fi, 58% logged into email accounts, and 56 % logged onto social media profiles, and 22%, unfortunately, accessed banking of financial information.
  • Millennials are more likely to exhibit risky behaviors; 95 percent have shared the personal data above while on public Wi-Fi.


Expanding on the opposing statistical realization, 50 percent of mobile device owners believe they do not bear accountability for their data’s security. Assuming many users endorse the same faulty sense of trust, they create an advantageousassemblage for intruders to infiltrate the network stream as a man-in-the-middle or deploy social engineering attacks to produce and display fraudulent websites, pop-up ads, and messages via email, messaging, and social media platforms attempting to gather sensitive credentials. Depending on the attack’s intent, spoofing and phishing may be required to attain the desired information. Spoofing is anidentity-theft virus attack where a person is trying to use the identity of a legitimate user.While phishing, under the umbrella of a social engineering attack,attempts to steal sensitive information of the user in a deceitful manner by disguising as a legitimate person (Parahar).

Most of the hackers may use IP spoofing by modifying source addresses to hide the identity, thus going further to use email to forge the sender address (email). Email protocol doesn’t have authentication; thus, spoofing use spam and phishing to mislead or prank recipients. Sometime spoofed URL may be masked like a legitimate source to steal data; thus, when open, it can infect devices using it with malware. Sometime spoofing may be associated with GPS, thus attackers using transmitter located to target to send false information or no information, thus interfere with the original GPS signal. The attacker may go further to poison DNS by introducing a corrupted Domain Name System information into the Domain Name Server resolver’s cache. Due to spoofing, most of the chital data may be stolen. As network administrators, it is their role to ensure the data is protected and secured.

Other methods used in phishing where the attacker can use phone, email, or clone to steal or fraud organization. As mentioned earlier, social engineering is commonly known to be used by the attacker; thus, in voice or phone, phishing can be used over the phone system to access financial or sensitive information in an organization. If the attacker didn’t succeed in using phone phishing s/he target emailing system. The attacker identifies a specific victim, thus scamming in electronic or email communications. Lastly, clone phishing may be used where legitimate sent emails delivered contain attachment may be used to create an identical email. The main difference between spoofing and phishing is technical since it involves changing the apparent sender detail while phishing is deceiving the user to give sensitive information.

When the systems are not well-patched, attackers may find the venerability, which exits and decides to use that as a starting point to attack the system. If that is the weakest link in the system, the attacker can inject malware, which will spread fast, affecting the system and its security. Thus Admins should always ensure that the system is well patched to avoid the attacks.  Sometimes our devices are rooted or jailed broken; thus a rooting malware, for instance, can use a library like Xposed on Android to intercept the calls to the SSL libraries from a banking or payment application and read the confidential data transferred to financial institutions.

Malware Targeting is of baiting the target so as you can inject them with malware to a specific time to gather accurate information. Hackers themselves can be a target since tools or applications they are using can be infused with malware. In-store, we have open-source tools or apps that we install in our android OS, which most of them may have malware to collect information. Thus the more you have open source apps, the more your phone is vulnerable. Some of the developers implement more securities than others, customize ROM or base OS to restrict malicious infiltration; others use a deferent OS like Apple to ensure that they have verified the application. The IOS is had to get their applications since you must pay so as you can download, thus more stringent control. Its OS or RAM can’t be modified, thus less flexibility; thus, the user cannot be able to use jailbreak to collect information needed. Thus IOS have higher security protocols making it sure that devices are well protected from tempting target

IOS security architecture

The security architecture of iOS ensures that we have device-level security, systems-level security, data-level security, network-level security, application-level security, and lastly hardware-level security, making it hard for hackers to attack the device from apple. Apple has data security, thus making sure it prevents it, user, from downloading and installing some unauthorized apps since it could be jailbreaking from some hacker to gain control of the devices they have. Android is a different case since most of the application is open-source, thus jailbreaking in their phone.

Apple usually encrypts its devices, as shown in the architecture, to avoid an untheorized user accessing it, thus given the device and application security priority. Data protection is the key components that Apple organization have taken into consideration since it has added security feature for offline have full disk encryption with strong encryption. In sandboxing, ensure no critical resources are used in the system. Randomizes the application objects’ location in memory; reduces exploit memory corruption vulnerabilities. In apple, we have the least privilege in the device; thus, the user is limited on what to do using their devices, thus less injection with malware.  Users may have direct access to apps but can act as root since he doesn’t know the important processes. Apple uses various exploitation mitigation techniques such as Stack smashing protection and data execution prevention (distinguishes data and code).

In android users have been given privileges to even to change the permission in Android 6.0+. Application is given UID when being executed or runs on the kernel, which understands what is supposed to be accessed thus have secure inter-process communication such as IPC. Data can be shared in applications downloaded in the google play store where the user must sign in to accept terms and conditions. Android has full disk encryption, thus checking if the device has the required minimum standards while getting the applications. In android, user data auto encrypts before writing it to disk, which works in eMMC. It has an isolated environment to prevent the user or attacker from reaching the kernel, thus working on biases deny unless allowed.  When comparing both iOS and android, they have passcode and fingerprints to protect devices, have sandboxing which provides a secure environment for the application, full disk, and data protection/ encryption has security enhancement/ privileges separations and ability to auto-update.

Every device is at risk since no system is 100% secure; thus, malware should be protected at all costs. The first-ever mobile virus was Timofonic in 2000 on GSN mobile phone. The malware has grown all the way from that time till now; thus, key measures to prevent malware need to be used, such as two-factor authentication, fingerprint or face detection, and cabir.

At any contemporary organization, malware virus is spread through a number of ways, and amongst the sources of the viruses is to use personal devices by employees, some of which are infected. When the infected devices get connected to non-infected, the viruses gain entrance to the non-infected devices. However, downloading applications and software from an unauthorized source and use of harmful networks are vulnerable activities improving the increasing cases of malware, and therefore employees downloading such apps from unknown networks causes the malicious threats to develop. However, from these activities from the employees, the organization suffers from data loss, misuse of resources, loss of reputation, and identity theft. However, these issues can be resolved in several ways, such as creating separate Wi-Fi for guests, firewalls, sandboxing, and registering all company devices.

There are my ways through which malware viruses can be protected from entering into our devices. The risk associated with malware causes severe damages to our mobile devices, and some of the negativities have no resolution up-to-date. To mention a few, malware lowers the operability of the mobile devices, and restoring the speed has been a challenge that is no well thought out. However, when malware grows beyond the controllable level, the overall impact is the failure of the hardware devices, and most of the hardware components may not be restored back once dead. Ideally, there are general tips if adhered to mobile devices can be protected from attack from this harmful virus. For instance, jailbreaking is one of the methods associated with root access to malware virus, and it involves a series of restrictions that prevent the installation of App from unauthorized or unknown sources. Therefore avoiding or rather do not jailbreak is an excellent protection tip against malware. However, the use of a VPN can be taken into account as alternative action against the virus, VPNs do not keep malware at bay, and they redirect you from keeping into contact with corrupt websites. Downloading mobile applications from unknown sources is among the risk factor associated with malware viruses, and therefore avoiding downloading apps from these sources significantly lowers the cases of malware infection. In most cases, mobile devices give an alert or restriction against the installation of mobile applications from non-reputable sources, and it is recommendable not to bypass the restriction. On the other hand, data encryption minimizes the risk factors against malware infections. It involves transforming a plaintext or data into another form or code which can only be accessed through a secret key known as a decryption key, and the entire move makes it difficult for anyone to access data for illegal uses.

However, doing mobile vulnerability is high scanning is highly encouraged, and it involves multiple tests on mobile applications, android security tests, and IOS tests. This dynamic scanning helps to identify the possibility of malware infection before they cause significant threats to mobile devices. Regular Updating software and hardware components is another step to consider in order to avoid malware protection. In most case, updated software’s have strong security firewalls that are not prone to attack by any form of viruses including malware and therefore updating software and hardware is an excellent way to guard against malware. However, training employees and having mobile device policies in place has a critical essence against the protection of the virus. When employees are well versed against the virus, they develop insight into the possible channels through which the viruses come about, and they become cautious against such channels. Besides, putting mobile devices policies in place limits unnecessary usage of mobile devices, and this lowers the chances through which the devices are used against non-reputable websites. Automatic updates are somehow improved versions with enhanced security measures against any kind of virus attack. Therefore, allowing automatic updates to run through mobile devices significantly reduces the random infection of mobile devices by the virus. In closing, iOS and android operating systems are highly targeted by Malware viruses and protecting them matters a lot. Several tests and scans are available to determine the threat level against virus infection in android and iOS systems. Such tests and scans help to protect the iOS and Android systems from the vulnerable malware infections

References: *To Be APA Sourced*,t%20actually%20encrypt%20any%20files.,user%20like%20bank%20account%20details.&text=Spoofing%20can%20be%20phishing%20in%20part.&text=Phishing%20is%20done%20to%20get%20confidential%20information.

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