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Attackers continue to target mobile devices for monetary gain, particularly through the use of deceptive apps, a new report said.

That was just one of the findings where aggressive attacks on typically Android-based mobile users appeared most prominent, high-volume spam campaigns, extensive use of ransomware to extract money from victims, and a significant expansion of malicious or infected websites distributing malware, according to the McAfee second quarter threat report.

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As users gravitate toward banking via mobile devices, attackers have created official-looking apps – complete with genuine or genuine-looking certificates – that claim to be from banks, but actually siphon credentials and data, and send that information back to the bad guys, said Adam Wosotowsky, messaging data architect at McAfee and one of the report’s authors.

In some cases, attackers can even redirect incoming calls and messages, offering attackers the chance to bypass two-step authentication in instances when the second step involves a code sent to the mobile device, Wosotowsky said.

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Sneaky programs that dial premium-rate numbers without users knowing and apps that rack up charges despite claiming to be free are nothing new, but continue to be prevalent. Wosotowsky said one adult-themed app in particular advertised itself as free, but then hit users with big charges for the services it offered.

Wosotowsky said most mobile malware is emanating from third-party websites in Asia and are predominately affecting Japanese, Chinese and Indian consumers.

“These are areas where Internet access is coming through smartphones,” he said. “They are farther down the road with everything happening on mobile. We get to see these things happening in Asia and prepare ourselves for it.”

Ransomware, meanwhile, is an increasingly popular scare tactic known to prey on user fear of being the target of an investigation by law enforcement for a crime they didn’t commit.

The McAfee report also found email spam volume has increased since the first quarter of 2013. Wosotowsky said while the rate is not at an all-time high, “If you’re in the crosshairs, you’re getting 10 to 15 spams on average per day. It’s vicious.”

Finally, suspicious and compromised websites may never cease being a threat. According to the report, this quarter showed “a 16 percent increase in suspicious URLs, bringing the total to nearly 75 million,” which may be “indicative of the success the cyber criminal community is having in their attempts to infect and repurpose legitimate websites.”

How should users defend against these types of threats? The researchers recommend only downloading from reputable sources and investigating the credibility of the download first. Users should also check to make sure applications are only accessing data necessary for functioning.

Click here to download the report.

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