The Creepy Rise of ‘Crimeware’

In-app robbery is on the rise.

Here, he made an app for you. (Image Devdsp on Flickr

Mobile devices are a brave new frontier for cyber thieves, and the BBC reports malware creators are cashing in. Citing surveys by Lookout mobile security, the BBC states that sneaky cash-snatching apps have increased from 29 to 62 percent of all smartphone malware. Users acquire the thieving bugs when they ride into your phone on the backs of seemingly innocent apps:

Kevin Mahaffey, head of technology at Lookout, said phone fraudsters were increasingly using viruses that surreptitiously added charges to a user’s bill to cash in.

Over the last few months, he said, Lookout had seen fraudsters stop experimenting with ways to steal cash and move on to large scale campaigns on networks where they knew they would succeed.

Mr. Mahaffey told the BBC that thieves are seeking “a repeatable, scalable” method for acquiring more money and once they have it, “they try to get as big as possible.”

Lookout calls these kinds of apps “Crimeware” and says at the moment crimeware is becoming a big problem in Russia, China and India.

As if seeding phones with viruses that steal money isn’t bad enough, though, the BBC’s report concludes that crimeware could also help “artificially inflate the popularity of” advertisements or even a song, ultimately sending more money into the cyber-thieves’ pockets.

So besides being a crime against all music, the next “Friday” could also end up secretly enriching the Russian mafia. The Creepy Rise of ‘Crimeware’