During the EU’s cyber security month, we take a look at some of the major online threats we’ve monitored over the course of the year.

As the way consumers and businesses use the internet evolves, so do the risks we all face on a day-to-day basis. Between September 2017 and September 2018, we saw a 220% increase in the monthly total number of threats blocked by Secure Net, Vodafone’s network-based online safety service.

Available in 10 countries across Europe, Secure Net has been protecting consumers for over 5 years. During this time, malware, adware and phishing attempts have remained a constant threat, but the nature of the risk has evolved constantly, and so we have all had to adapt in order to ensure the online environment remains as safe as possible.

 

 

Evolving malware

In the past, much of the malware (malicious software hidden in websites and downloaded files) found online was aimed at stealing sensitive personal information that would leave victims at risk of identity theft. But during the first quarter of 2018, one of the biggest threats was a tiny malicious JavaScript code called Coinhive, which instead hijacks the processing power (CPU) of laptops.

When a user connects to a website where Coinhive is lurking, often hidden inside adverts embedded in the page, the code automatically takes over the device’s CPU in order to mine crypto-currencies. This increased CPU usage means that users’ devices run more slowly and the batteries run out more quickly. However, because the malware is based in the browser, rather than being downloaded on to the victim’s phone or computer, the process stops as soon as the user leaves the infected web page.

This is called browser-based mining and it isn’t new, but it’s only started to become a widespread phenomenon as the processing power of smartphones began to increase significantly. Coinhive is currently the most common malware in the world, and it became the top malware blocked by Secure Net – in March 2018 around 38% of the total blocks on our network were to prevent access to Coinhive.

No such thing as a free lunch

Another major issue we saw earlier in the year came from a piece of adware called Leadzuaf. Often hidden within free software downloads, adware redirects your browser to show unsolicited adverts – often in great numbers; often carrying further viruses of their own. Early in 2018, we saw a significant spike in unwanted network attempts to access the Leadzuaf adware: in February, there were over 100 million attempts to access Leadzuaf in Spain alone that were blocked by Secure Net .

Staying one step ahead

In order to meet these ever-changing threats, it’s important that systems such as Secure Net constantly adapt and evolve to stay one step ahead. Secure Net’s dynamic “virus definition library” is a living organism that adapts itself to changing conditions of the web, so it is always alert to existing and new threats.

We are in the process of rolling out an upgrade to Vodafone Secure Net so that it protects our fixed networks as well as mobile. Secure Net will then become a fully converged network-based option, which means customers’ settings will apply when they are connected to the Vodafone fixed line network as well the mobile service – going even further to help our customers stay safe online.

 

For more information about Secure Net, visit https://securenet.vodafone.com/

Related article: How an ‘inside-out’ approach can help you keep one step ahead of internet threats