Australia a top-10 attacker as cybercrims target mobile-commerce growth

Mobile usage surged in the second quarter to the point where mobile devices accounted for 31 percent of all transactions, according to new research that pegged Australia in the global top 10 for attack origins and warns of an increased mobile-security threat as cybercriminals respond to changing usage patterns with intense targeted attacks.

The latest ThreatMetrix Cybercrime Report, which reflects the flow of more than 1 billion global transactions transiting the company's ThreatMetrix Digital Identity Network per month, painted a sobering picture of the changing threat facing CSOs as they try to ensure that increasingly flexible methods of data and systems access don't compromise underlying security controls.

Noting that “digital identities are the new global currency to protect against attacks from fraudsters across the globe”, ThreatMetrix picked up on more than 75 million attacks during the quarter as cyber-criminals used proxies, device and location spoofing to assume other users' identities or piggy-back user sessions with man-in-the-middle attacks or malware.

Those figures represented an increase from earlier in the year, India and the Dominican Republic joined the US, UK and Germany as the top 5 attack originators for the period, with cybercriminals focusing on online lenders, domestic transactions rather than international, and payment and login attacks targeted at financial institutions.

Some 20 percent of transactions monitored by ThreatMetrix were payment-related, and 3.1 percent of those were flagged as representing attack traffic. This was much higher proportionally than account-creation activity, 3.1 percent of which was also fraudulent despite representing 77 percent of overall traffic.

Account-login traffic represented just 3 percent of monitored traffic, with 4.1 percent of monitored traffic representing attack attempts. Within monitored e-commerce traffic, however, account-login fraud was much higher, at 6.7 percent of all traffic.

This change was attributed to growing usage of mobile apps, which generate additional login traffic and shuttle users between screens as part of normal activities.

Australia was also fingered as being among the top 10 originators of attack traffic – putting it in the company of France, China, Brazil and the Netherlands.

Data breaches and botnets were driving the surge in cybercrime, the company's analysis reported, with mobile usage up 10 percent compared to the previous report and Apple devices in particular representing a significant risk as they accounted for nearly two-thirds of mobile transactions (this, despite the market-share dominance of Google's rival Android platform).

Although Apple's iOS platform is relatively less exposed to malware, recent successful malware such as KeyRaider and zero-day exploits show it is not invulnerable. The concentration of financial transactions on iOS devices may also be particularly worrisome as recent research suggests that only 1 in 4 businesses was properly managing employees' Apple devices – crucial to ensure mobile devices are properly secured.

ThreatMetrix analysis flagged 2.2 percent of iPhone traffic and 1.7 percent of iPad traffic as relating to attacks on the devices, compared with 2.8 percent of Android traffic and 2.2 percent of Windows traffic.

Yet iPhone traffic represented 44 percent of all monitored transactions – compared with 35 percent on Android devices and 17 percent on iPads – showing consumers' broad interest in mobile transactions that need to be secured.

New security exposures were becoming increasingly problematic as fraudsters increasingly worked to correlate multiple data sources to build deep user profiles that could be used for future attacks.

“As crimeware tools gain traction, The [ThreatMetrix] Network is seeing more and more traffic that is cloaked,” the report warned, “especially for new account creation where the fraudsters use stolen identities along with these tools to defraud businesses.”

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