Asia Faces Dramatic Increase in Mobile Malware Infections

Mobile malware is spreading rampantly across Asia, as 97 percent of all mobile transactions in the region have been flagged as fraudulent and blocked, according to a report from Upstream’s Secure-D.

The spread of mobile malware across the globe is not uniform, with some regions more affected than others. Depending on the characteristics of the region, the malware itself differs. And, as mobile devices are a prime exponent of the IoT ecosystem, it’s easy to see why the problem affects more than just the infected hardware.

Indonesia seems to be the most affected by this problem by far. Mobile malware soared during the third quarter of 2020 in Indonesia, registering a blistering 98 percent of fraudulent transactions from a total of 164 million transactions processed.

“In total, 310,000 users in Indonesia were found carrying malware infected devices, equating to one fifth of all infected users Secure-D detected globally, and one third of those across Asia,” states the report. “The number of suspicious mobile apps in the country has doubled compared to Q3 2019, jumping from 3,129 to 6,288. This adds yet further evidence to the theory that bad actors are using the pandemic to take advantage of a relatively captive mobile userbase.”

But Indonesia is not the only country affected. In fact, 7.2 million transactions out of 8 million in were found to be fraudulent in Thailand, twice as much as in the same period in 2019. Malaysia saw a 30% increase in the number of transactions blocked, and the UAE experienced a 16% increase.

It would be easier to dismiss the malware infections if users installed all of these apps from untrustworthy sources, but most of the apps have been available through the official Google Play store.

“Nine out of the top 10 worst offending apps of the third quarter of 2020, including Capping by Englory InterTech and the VivaVideo app, and 37 out of the top 50 offenders are or have, at some point, been available on Google Play,” the report also says. “In the top 10 list for Q3 there are also four apps published by MEIZU, a relatively low-cost Chinese Android mobile handset manufacturer.”

Outside of Asia, other countries are affected as well. For example, Russia has a block rate of 66 percent, South Africa experienced a 70 percent increase from the same period last year, and more than 76 million transactions were identified and blocked in Brazil in Q3, a 77 percent increase on the previous quarter.