October 3, 2016 By Michael Ambrose 2 min read

September was yet another huge month for mobile security news. Google dominated the headlines, for better and worse, with exciting announcements about its upcoming Android release and a troubling report of malicious apps discovered in the Google Play Store.

The month also saw the launches of a $12,000, ultrasecure phone and a six-month-long hacking contest, as well as a surge in successful attacks against U.K. brands. Here is a roundup of the top five headlines from last month.

New $12,000 Phone Can Prevent Mobile Malware

We may think of mobile security as largely being driven by software, but Sirin Labs developed a mobile device for which hardware is the key selling point. The U.K.- and Israel-based company launched a $12,000 device loaded with security features, CSO Online reported. It comes with a switch, for instance, that encrypts all content and disables sensors like GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Nothing is perfect, however. For example, a user seeking to call one of these devices must install a special security app on his or her own device. The phone might be useful to certain high-net-worth individuals or leaders, but is it the answer to mobile security in the broad sense? We’ll have to wait and see.

New Malware in Google Play Could Affect 2.5 Million

Two malicious apps, CallJam and DressCode, took the Google Play Store by storm in September, SecurityWeek reported. By the time the apps were discovered, more than 2.5 million users had downloaded them.

CallJam used games as its delivery tool. Once installed, it would generate fraudulent phone calls to premium phone numbers and deliver malicious ads both on the device and on websites.

DressCode, on the other hand, operated by creating a botnet of infected devices to generate either ad clicks or false traffic to websites. It managed to infect 40 apps on the Google Play Store and over 400 apps on third-party stores.

Google Offers $200,000 Prize for Android Hack Challenge

Google launched a six-month-long bug contest for white-hat hackers, InfoWorld reported, offering a mouthwatering prize of $200,000. Project Zero Prize participants will work on hacking Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X smartphones.

What makes the contest noteworthy is that it diverges from typical time-bound bounty hunts that most organizations use. The company is also encouraging participants to submit their findings on an ongoing basis rather than all at once.

Malicious Apps Leveraging Top UK Brands Increases By 130 Percent

Malicious apps successfully attacked 45 major U.K. brands in the month of September. The majority of these apps impersonated legitimate programs from banking, retail, media and entertainment, travel and online gaming sectors.

Research from RiskIQ noted that there were “107,367 brand-associated blacklisted apps, representing 43 percent of the total number of apps discovered — an increase of 131 percent over the past year,” SC Magazine reported. The biggest targets were banking and financial applications.

New Security Features in Android 7.0 Nougat

Android 7.0 Nougat is scheduled to be released in October, and the word on its latest security features is out. The new release has an enhanced focus on Android at Work features such as VPN, Work Mode and remote bug reports.

The list of security features is also quite exciting for general users. CIO detailed new elements such as direct boot, encryption, stronger MediaServer and seamless Android updates, to name just a few.

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