Malware: Bigger and Badder Than Ever

2015: A Big Year for Malware

Anyone who kept up with cybersecurity news in 2015 already knows it was a big year for malware and the cybercriminal gangs that develop it. Malware sophistication reached new heights with Dyre, Shifu and other gang-owned codes, revealing that the stereotypical lone-wolf hacker has been replaced by highly organized cybercrime. Indeed, today’s fraudsters are very professional and focused, and they are diversifying their targets in order to achieve bigger paydays.

With all the advances made in cybercrime throughout recent months, there is little reason to suspect that the evolution of increasingly complex malware strains and the magnitude of cybercriminal activity will slow down in 2016.

In a new white paper released by the Information Security Media Group, IBM Security Executive Security Advisor Limor Kessem discussed how malware evolved in the past year, the variants that concern her most and where organizations are now most vulnerable to attack.

What We Learned

In 2015, existing Trojans added new evasion features and theft mechanisms. New malware that emerged was increasingly modular and advanced, meaning it was able to better impersonate victims and hide its intentions in real time. Perhaps most alarmingly, this growing sophistication has revealed itself not only in banking Trojans, but also in mobile malware realms, as well.

One trend to watch in the mobile arena, Kessem cautioned in the paper, is overlay malware. In an overlay attack, fraudsters place a nearly identical fake application screen on top of a legitimate application, deceiving users into revealing personal data such as payment terminal logins, banking credentials or even credit card details.

With cybercriminals becoming more organized and developing more sophisticated and dangerous malware tactics, it’s no surprise that traditional defenses are struggling to keep up. As just one example, antivirus software cannot reliably detect morphed or rewrapped malware and therefore leaves the endpoint open to exploitation. This stronghold, whether on a personal or corporate device, is where the eventual fraud takes place.

Kessem emphasized that, in a world where malware evolves both rapidly and frequently, malware defenses must also be based on dynamic intelligence. Counteracting the most advanced malware codes requires an agility that is lacking in many current solutions.

Read the white paper to learn more about the latest advances in malware attacks

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Jennifer Tullman-Botzer

Security Intelligence Editor

Jennifer is a digital marketing manager for IBM Security. She is responsible for the day to day operations and editorial management of