The Growing Problem of Mobile Adware

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The Growing Problem of Mobile Adware
A
MONTHLY MOBILE REVIEW
The Growing Problem
of Mobile Adware
SEPTEMBER 2012
This monthly report reviews the mobile landscape including the findings of Trend Micro engineers and researchers.
In this report we look at the impact of mobile adware, and need for increased battery life
Battery Anxiety: The Trouble With Smartphones Today
The last quarter of the year always sees lots of new and improved smartphones hitting
the market. Most offer brighter and higher resolution displays, faster processors, more
advanced cameras, and sleeker designs. However, consumers tell us they are more
concerned about the battery life of their device than the clarity of their display or the
crispness of their photos. A Trend Micro study found that battery usage/drain is the
biggest smartphone concern for more than 60% of respondents.
Smartphone manufacturers appear to be receiving the same feedback, with battery life
being a major focus for releases this season. However while they introduce smaller and
more powerful batteries, along with new advancements in charging technology, other
trends in mobile devices will undoubtedly offset these battery enhancements.
The latest power-hungry trends and technologies include 4G/LTE which delivers
lightning-fast Internet access and data download but potentially consumes more power.
Multi-core processors make devices faster but require more power. Users also prefer
slimmer, sleeker phones that require smaller batteries that are often built into the device.
For low-end devices this potentially means less capacity along with the inconvenience of
not being able to use a spare battery.
Smartphone owners are then left to manually manage the power consumption of their
devices. This may lead to constantly monitoring and tweaking settings like mobile data
and Wi-Fi access, screen timeout, screen brightness, Bluetooth activity, and killing
background processes. This is beyond most users’
technical skill set, leaving them to suffer through
poor battery life on their smartphones.
A Trend Micro study on smartphone battery life
A recent study by the Purdue University and
Microsoft highlighted another power-hungry activity
that is present in almost all smartphones today. The
study showed the impact of advertisements being
displayed on mobile devices through the use of apps.
The study highlighted that “65-75 percent of energy
in free apps is spent in third-party advertisement
modules.”
Our recent analysis of Android smartphones has shown that approximately 12 percent
completely run out of power each day. This can be extremely inconvenient and even
dangerous as users become disconnected from friends and families. Our threat research
during August has also highlighted a concerning increase in the prevalence of adware
in Android apps. While these apps can house malicious routines and links to malicious
websites, they also pose a risk to battery life as shown by the Purdue study.
MONTHLY MOBILE REVIEW: THE GROWING PROBLEM OF MOBILE ADWARE
Threat Spotlight: The Rise of Mobile Adware
A significant part of the mobile malware we encountered in August was from the
AIRPUSH and ADWLEADBOLT families. These are our detections for mobile apps that use
the AirPush and Leadbolt advertising networks, respectively.
Advertising networks offer mobile app developers a variety of ways to display ads. Most
of these are perfectly legitimate, since they are contained within the app. However,
an increasing number of mobile ad networks like AirPush and Leadbolt also place ads
outside of the app. In particular, they send ads to users in the form of notifications, as
well as adding unrelated icons to the user’s phone. Viewing the notification can launch
the phone’s browser to display the advertiser’s website. These ad networks also tend
to collect personal information, in many instances, without explicit user knowledge or
intervention.
This behavior is comparable to adware on desktop computers, which we detect and
remove from user systems. Mobile adware can make mobile devices run slower, consume
data and drain battery, not to mention causing potential annoyance and inconvenience.
In addition, malicious apps have also been used to abuse the notification bar. Thus, users
may find it difficult to differentiate between “legitimate” ads and malware.
Figure 1. Top malware families in August 2012
MONTHLY MOBILE REVIEW: THE GROWING PROBLEM OF MOBILE ADWARE
Mobile Top 10 in August 2012
The following are the countries with the highest risk for malicious application download:
1. Argentina
6. Thailand
2. Kuwait
7. Philippines
3. Russia
8. Malaysia
4. India
9. Saudi Arabia
5. Brazil
10. Indonesia
* Ratings are provided by analyzing real-time threat detection in Trend Micro™ Mobile Security Personal
Edition. Due to technical reasons, China is not included.
The following are countries with the highest download rate of apps that consume the
most power:
1. Switzerland
6. Malaysia
2. Israel
7. Singapore
3. Taiwan
8. Italy
4. Saudi Arabia
9. Ireland
5. Sweden
10. Portugal
* Ratings are provided by analyzing real-time app scanning results in Trend Micro™ Longevity for Android. Due
to technical reasons China and Japan are not included.
MONTHLY MOBILE REVIEW: THE GROWING PROBLEM OF MOBILE ADWARE
TREND MICRO™
TRENDLABSSM
Trend Micro Incorporated (TYO: 4704; TSE: 4704), a global cloud security leader, creates a world safe for exchanging digital information with
its Internet content security and threat management solutions for businesses and consumers. A pioneer in server security with over
20 years’ experience, we deliver top-ranked client, server and cloudbased security that fits our customers’ and partners’ needs, stops
new threats faster, and protects data in physical, virtualized and cloud
environments. Powered by the industry-leading Trend Micro™ Smart
Protection Network™ cloud computing security infrastructure, our
products and services stop threats where they emerge—from the Internet. They are supported by 1,000+ threat intelligence experts around
the globe.
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center with an extensive regional presence committed to 24 x 7 threat
surveillance, attack prevention, and timely and seamless solutions
delivery. With more than 1,000 threat experts and support engineers
deployed round-the-clock in labs located around the globe, TrendLabs
enables Trend Micro to continuously monitor the threat landscape
across the globe; deliver real-time data to detect, to preempt, and to
eliminate threats; research on and analyze technologies to combat new
threats; respond in real time to targeted threats; and help customers worldwide minimize damage, reduce costs, and ensure business
continuity.
©2012 by Trend Micro, Incorporated. All rights reserved. Trend Micro and the Trend Micro t-ball logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Trend Micro, Incorporated. All other product or
company names may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their owners.

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