Revealing a worrying global trend, security researchers have found that malware files designed to steal credentials and money from users’ bank accounts rose to around 30,000 in the first quarter of 2019, up from 18,500 in the previous quarter, a growth of over 60 per cent.
Mobile banking Trojans are one of the most rapidly-developing, flexible and dangerous types of malware, said the report from cyber security firmKaspersky Lab.
They usually steal funds directly from mobile users’ bank accounts, but sometimes their purpose is changed to steal other kinds of credentials.
The malware generally looks like a legitimate app, such as a banking application. When a victim tries to reach their genuine bank app, the attackers gain access to that too.
In Q1 2019, Kaspersky Lab detected around 30,000 modifications of various families of banking Trojans, trying to attack 312,235 unique users.
“The rapid rise of mobile financial malware is a troubling sign, especially since we see how criminals are perfecting their distribution mechanisms,” Victor Chebyshev, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, said in a statement.
“For example, a recent tendency is to hide the banking Trojan in a dropper – the shell that is supposed to fly to the device under the security radar, releasing the malicious part only upon arrival,” Chebyshev added.
A new version of the Asacub malware accounted for 58.4 per cent of all banking Trojans that attacked users, said the report.
Asacub first appeared in 2015. The attackers spent two years perfecting its distribution scheme and, as a result, the malware peaked in 2018, when it attacked 13,000 users a day.
What would you do if you found a lost wallet? New research suggests that your answer may depend on what you find inside.
In 38 out of the 40 countries studied, people were more likely to return a lost wallet if it contained money. The finding, which goes against existing models of human behavior, could help policymakers find ways to encourage people to be more honest in social and business settings.
Economic models predict that people are more likely to be dishonest if there’s money on the line. Financial self-interest isn’t the only important factor, though. The new study suggests that it’s also important for people to see themselves as honest.
Self-interest versus self-image
In order to investigate how self-interest and self-image interact in the real world, a research team led by Alain Cohn of the University of Michigan used a classic moral dilemma: finding a lost wallet.
The researchers turned in 17,303 “lost wallets” to employees at public places like banks, theaters and post offices in 355 cities spread across 40 countries. The transparent plastic showcased the contents: business cards, a grocery list and a key. In addition to those personal items, some wallets contained money, $13.45 in local currency, adjusted for the country’s purchasing power, and others contained none.
The researchers tallied the number of wallets returned and investigated whether the people who received them were less likely to return them if they contained money, as expected.
“To our surprise, the answer is overwhelmingly no,” Cohn said in a teleconference.
Money made a difference
In nearly all of the countries studied, people were more likely to return a lost wallet that contained money than one that didn’t. Participants in Switzerland and Norway were most likely to reach out to the owner, and those in China and Morocco were least likely, but the trend persisted across the globe. On average, the return rate rose from 40 percent when the wallet didn’t contain money to 51 percent when it did.
Raising the financial stakes strengthens the effect.
In the U.S., U.K. and Poland, the researchers increased the amount of money from $13.45 to $94.15. With even more to gain from dishonesty, people were more likely to return the lost wallet. The average percentage of wallets returned jumped from 61 percent to 72 percent when the amount of money was increased.
“While the results were initially surprising to us, we were not the only ones who did not anticipate this pattern,” Cohn said.
The researchers asked economists and non-economists to predict the outcome of the study. Both groups incorrectly predicted that the more money the wallet contained, the less likely the participants would be to return it.
Although the respondents believed that people were more likely to keep lost wallets that contained money, another group surveyed felt that the more money they found in a lost wallet, the more it would feel like stealing if they kept it.
“The evidence suggests that people tend to care about the welfare of others and they have an aversion to seeing themselves as a thief,” Cohn said.
Do people think only of themselves when considering a dishonest act, or do they think of others as well? To test this, the researchers removed the keys from some of the wallets in the U.S., U.K. and Poland and found that the average return rate was 9.2 percent higher when the wallets contained a key.
Since the key is valuable to the wallet owner but not the wallet finder, an increase in the return rate for wallets with a key shows that people consider how others may be harmed by their dishonesty.
While other studies have shown that people weigh the monetary rewards against the damage done to their self-image when acting dishonestly, this is the first field study to show that this is a global phenomenon.
“It’s so much work to run a study across so many national cultures and with so many observations. This is not an easy thing to pull off and to do it in such a controlled, really well-organized way, this is really something,” said Nina Mazar, a professor of marketing at Boston University who was not involved in the study.
In the case of a lost wallet, the right thing to do is clear. Most scenarios aren’t so obvious, though, and researcher Cohn suggests that a next step could be to study cases “where perhaps it’s less clear whether doing the wrong thing is actually being seen as wrong.”
The study underscores the importance of self-image concerns in decision making, and exploring the more nuanced situations can help researchers understand why people choose to act dishonestly, which can help policymakers encourage civic honesty around the world. (VOA)