Why are Cyber Criminals Increasingly Targetting Mobile Devices?

A survey carried out by Check Point Research (CPR), the Threat Intelligence arm of Check Point Software has revealed that in the last year, almost half (49 per cent) of organisations worldwide are unable to detect an attack or breach on employee-owned devices.

At a time when workforces around the world are becoming increasingly distributed, there’s a genuine risk that the mobile arena could soon become the new corporate cyber security battleground. From mobile spyware that can assume complete control of iOS and Android devices via zero-click exploits, to Trojans deployed via malicious apps that can harvest users’ credentials, organisations have never been more at risk from mobile threats.

Any notion that hybrid working and a BYOD (bring your own device) culture were simply part of a temporary response to the COVID-19 pandemic can now also be laid to rest. In data published as recently as February 2022, Statista reported that 30 per cent of the world’s workforce now work exclusively from home. The same survey indicated that around 60 per cent of companies are now actively facilitating hybrid working, giving employees the freedom to choose where they log on. But how many of these organisations are fully prepared for the security demands of a truly mobile workforce?

As outlined in Check Point Software’s 2022 Security Report, the number of weekly cyber attacks on corporate networks peaked at an average of 900 attacks per organisation in Q4 2021. Across the entire year, we recorded a staggering 50 per cent increase in weekly attacks from 2020. Far from being a coincidence, it’s more likely that cyber criminals are simply taking advantage of the expanding mobile ecosystem that organisations worldwide now occupy.

The emerging mobile threat

Check Point analysts saw some concerning developments in the mobile threat landscape throughout the past year. The report referenced NSO’s Pegasus, notorious for its ability to gain full control of iOS and Android devices via an elaborate zero-click exploit. NSO, the group responsible for the spyware, is currently one of the highest-profile vendors of “access-as-a-service” malware, selling packaged hacking solutions that enable affiliate threat actor groups to target mobile devices without the need for homegrown resources. In 2019, Pegasus was used to leverage WhatsApp and infect more than 1,400 user devices, from senior government officials to journalists and even human rights activists.

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