Internet security firm says that cybercriminals are no longer just 'lone hackers'

New data suggests that mobile malware is becoming more advanced in its capacity to target smartphone users, according to internet security firm Kaspersky.

In a report published for the years 2012-13, Kaspersky found that in 2013 over 143,000 new modifications of malicious programs targeting mobile devices were detected, indicating a rapid increase in the amount of programs that exist.

Additionally, over 3.9m installation packages were used by cybercrminals in 2013 to distribute mobile malware - a figure that rises to 10m unique installation packages over the two years.

The report reads: "The mobile malware sector is growing rapidly both technologically and structurally. It is safe to say that today’s cybercriminal is no longer a lone hacker but part of a serious business operation.

"It is now clear that a distinct industry has developed and is becoming more focused on extracting profits, which is clearly evident from the functionality of the malware."

Concerns have been raised about the percentage of Android users being targeted, with Kaspersky explaining that over 98 per cent of the malware was aimed at smartphone users that use the popular operating system, highlighting its "vulnerabilities and growing popularity".

In terms of its geographical impact, the country most affected - by some distance - is Russia, with 40 per cent of unique attacked users coming from the former Soviet state. UK users are also being targeted, although only three per cent were affected, a small amount in comparison to Russia.

Victor Chebyshev, a Virus Analyst at Kaspersky Lab, predicted that the bank trojans will eventually spread to other countries this year. He said: "Today, the majority of banking Trojan attacks target users in Russia and the CIS. However, that is unlikely to last for long: given the cybercriminals’ keen interest in user bank accounts, the activity of mobile banking Trojans is expected to grow in other countries in 2014.

Worryingly enough, the number of banking trojans circulating is also increasing. Kaspersky say the number of mobile malware modifications for phishing, stealing bank card information and money from bank accounts represented a twenty-fold increase, with 2,500 infections prevented by the company in 2013 alone.

“The cyber industry of mobile malware is becoming more focused on making profits more effectively, i.e., mobile phishing, theft of credit card information, money transfers from bank cards to mobile phones and from phones to the criminals’ e-wallets,” explains Kaspersky.

"Cybercriminals have become obsessed by this method of illegal earnings: at the beginning of the year we knew only 67 banking Trojans, but by the end of the year there were already 1321 unique samples.”