Criminals Know the Value of Mobility, Good Guys Are Coming Around

Carl Weinschenk
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Five Top Mobile Device Risks and How to Protect Your Business

It's very nice that the mobile security vendors are listening to me.

A few times during the past few months I've written about the dangers of mobility. The dynamics are pretty clear: Mobility is moving from a nice add-on-with security to match-to a mission-critical business tool. The data being sent and stored on the devices is more valuable. The bad guys are intrigued and, unfortunately, in many cases the level of security has not changed to match.

The dangers became evident to observers because one of the first rules of online security-a rule as reliable as Moore's Law-is that the bad guys follow the money. The money now is in mobile. Whether enterprises like it or not, the next front in the war between crackers and security forces will be mobility.

The built-in advantage that mobility has is that the Microsoft Windows "monoculture"-the reliance on a single operating system that criminals can swing at like it's a piata-is absent. Still, criminals are a clever bunch, and will adjust to the new environment. This is especially true if it is evident that the big bucks are moving from the PC to the smartphone and tablet.

It's happening. McAfee's report on the fourth quarter said that malware increased 46 percent over the previous quarter. One of the main threats that the study identified is the Geinimi Trojan, which is based on Android and came from the creators of the Zeus botnet. Others included Zitmo.A, which was aimed at Symbian. The story suggests that the results validate Intel's plans for McAfee, which it acquired last year. The threats are expected to continue growing this year, the story says.

Norton announced the results of its Strategy One report this week, though the survey was conducted in September. The delay wasn't long enough, however, for the results to be invalidated. Norton reports that Miami, New York and Los Angeles were the three worst places for smartphones. During the device's lifetime, 52 percent, 49 percent and 44 percent went missing, respectively, in the three locales. Said the story:

While Norton published the study as part of a product release, the numbers are a stark reminder that modern smartphones are packed with sensitive data that make them prime targets for identity thieves. Worse, more than half of those surveyed did not secure their smartphone with a password, and nearly ninety percent did not install a security app capable of remotely locating, locking or wiping their smartphone in case of theft.

Vendors are reacting. Norton's numbers were released in conjunction with the introduction of Norton Mobile Security 1.5. The story says that the new product enables locating, locking and wiping of phones. It also offers spyware scanning and additional call/text blocking features.

This week Sophos Mobile Control was introduced. The product can be used with Android, Apple's iOS and Windows Mobile. According to InformationWeek, it will enforce policies and enable remote wiping. It offers a self-help portal and works either with employee- or corporate-owned devices.

Gradually, the awareness of mobile security challenges among professionals is growing. And not a moment too soon, since awareness of the value of the data on mobile networks certainly already is high among the criminals.

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