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BlackBerry has released a new report into mobile malware, ‘Mobile Malware and APT Espionage: Prolific, Pervasive, and Cross-Platform’, which examines how advanced persistent threat (APT) groups have been leveraging mobile malware in combination with traditional desktop malware in ongoing surveillance and espionage campaigns.

The report documents several previously unidentified APT attack campaigns and new malware families and fills gaps in other published research about mobile malware activity by known APT groups. The researchers examined mobile and mobile/desktop campaigns by APT groups connected to China, Iran, North Korea and Vietnam, as well as two other unidentified but likely state-sponsored threat actors, all of whom were focused on foreign and/or domestic targets for economic and/or political objectives. 

“This research demonstrates that mobile attacks are much more pervasive of a threat than previously estimated,” says Eric Cornelius, Chief Technology Officer at BlackBerry Cylance. “It may come as a surprise to many to learn how coordinated and long-standing the campaigns targeting mobile users have been, as they have been easy targets for APT groups because of a historical deficit in effective security solutions for detecting and preventing mobile malware.”

As mobile devices grow in type and adoption, they provide a quick means to access sensitive data from select targets. This report highlights that mobile malware use by state or state-sponsored APT groups far exceeds what was previously estimated as a more limited attack vector. The report also reveals that APT groups are actively using mobile malware in conjunction with traditional desktop malware campaigns, that threat actors with distinctly different target sets are sharing attack infrastructure, and that some APTs are pivoting focus from domestic to foreign targets.

“Both organizations and consumers should be very concerned about what this means for not only their information, but also the safety and security of the countries in which they reside,” says Brian Robison, Chief Evangelist at BlackBerry Cylance. “It’s clear that the market for exploits targeting mobile devices has skyrocketed, and the sheer scale of what we found - mobile malware that is interwoven with desktop malware campaigns - shows definitively that several nation states are getting in on the mobile campaign action. It is essential that organizations utilize the utmost advanced technology to protect and secure the mobile landscape.” 

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