McAfee released the results of its “Mobile Security: McAfee Consumer Trends Report,” documenting sophisticated and risky applications that pose potential threats to users and organizations. The report identifies a new wave of techniques hackers use to steal digital identities, commit financial fraud and invade users’ privacy on mobile devices.

Mobile platforms have become increasingly attractive to cybercriminals as more people rely on smartphones and tablets, McAfee notes. With the mobile space becoming a more enticing platform for online crime, the complexity and volume of threats aimed at mobile users will continue to increase, the company says.

Using its global threat intelligence network, McAfee Labs analyzed mobile security data from the last three quarters and identified in the report several threats as being the most severe. These include risky applications that contain malware and suspicious URLs; the use of black market products such as botnet clients, downloaders and rootkits to commit fraud, spam distribution and data theft; “drive-by downloads,” in which a user is fooled into downloading an application without knowing it; and abuse of near field communication to quickly spread malware through a group of mobile device users for the purposes of digital theft.

“Despite elevated [user] awareness of threats on mobile platforms, there is still a significant knowledge gap surrounding how and when devices become infected and the level of potential damage,” Luis Blando, vice president of mobile product development at McAfee, said in a statement. “Cybercriminals are exhibiting greater levels of determination and sophistication, leading to more destructive, multifaceted hacks that are harder to spot and thus warrant a greater degree of security and vigilance.”