Malware is Eyeing Your Smart Device

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Emerging Security Concerns in 2011

As the barriers to hacking are removed, the number of hackers will rise and the hunt will be on for the quickest route to the biggest payouts.

It's happened. Finally. It doesn't pay to get upset about it. For years, security experts have been saying it's inevitable. Finally, crackers have almost fully turned their attention from desktop computers to mobile devices.


Crackers have long dabbled in mobile device attacks, of course. But they are a predictable lot: They go where the money is and where they have the greatest chance for success. They hadn't settled really going after mobile devices until the relative recent explosion of smart devices radically increased the value of the data sent to, stored in and transmitted by mobile devices.


The bad guys also were put off for a long time by the fact that mobility, with its wide variety of operating systems, didn't offer the easy bang for the buck long available in the "monocultural" Windows-dominated world. About the same time that mobility got hot, Microsoft upped its security skills, which further convinced crackers to look for new horizons.


The bottom line is that mobile security is front and center. This week, AdaptiveMobile released research that indicated mobile malware infections rose 33 percent between 2009 and 2010.


The story says that Android, at 400 percent, has suffered the biggest percentage malware increase. This is to be expected because the relative youth of the operating system makes such statistics more attainable (or, in this case, inevitable). Android faces big problems in the future: The openness of the platform makes apps created for it more vulnerable than their counterparts written for a more tightly controlled operating system, such as Apple's iOS. Java-based phones experienced the second biggest increase at 45 percent, according to AdaptiveMobile.


The year ahead will cement mobile OSes' status as the industry's highest profile security challenge:

Certainly smartphone security is a key issue for the enterprise, and 2011 could represent a difficult year as that sector embraces more than just e-mail on smart phones. Mobile applications are coming to the forefront and so are employee-owned devices that want to access both corporate applications and less secure applications such as social networking.

It's an accepted fact among close observers that smart device security is a growing issue. It seems that the dangers are being more generally acknowledged, which is a good thing. Indeed, Symantec's detailed rundown of the dangers of smartphone use during the holidays is sobering-and doesn't seem like overkill. The bottom line is that it is a dangerous world out there, and criminals are not likely to take time off for the holidays.


A third report-this one from the European Union-also warned of smartphone security concerns. It cited malware as the most serious threat, but also cited more subtle dangers, such as revealing data through GPS information attached to pictures. This can lead to physical attack, the report said.


Clearly, the focus on the never-ending battle between security forces and the crackers is turning from the desktop to the mobile sector. That trend solidified in 2010, and will grow to be even more dominant as new smartphones, the new version of the iPad and other tablets are introduced during 2011.

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