Have you given much thought to the security of your backed-up data? If you haven’t, perhaps it’s time you do, especially in light of new research from Palo Alto Networks.
Palo Alto Networks released a white paper today that takes a close look at how bad guys are able to access backup data stored on local media, like computers, coming from mobile devices. The company identified more than 700 samples of six Trojan, adware and HackTool families infecting and hiding in both Windows and Mac operating systems. The malware has been around for at least five years. As the white paper explained:
Mobile security and forensics practitioners have been aware of the technique we describe as ‘BackStab’ for years. Rather than attacking a phone directly, BackStab involves accessing private information that was extracted from the phone through a regular backup routine and stored on a traditional desktop or laptop computer. Law enforcement officials and jealous lovers around the world have used simple tools to capture and extract private phone information from computers to which they have gained access. This includes text messages, photos, geographic location data, and almost any other type of information stored on a mobile device.
According to a blog post, nothing is safe in these local backup storage sites. To be considered vulnerable, a user only has to have one backup file in local storage:
In some situations, official backup software, like that of Apple iTunes, will automatically create backups of mobile devices without the user’s interaction and without encryption. It is also possible for malware to initiate a backup when the device is attached to an infected computer in some cases.
How can you protect yourself from the risks involved in local backup data? Encryption is the first step, followed by unique and strong passwords for your backup that are different from the original mobile versions. Good antivirus/antimalware software is a must, especially in that iOS environment, where too many users are still convinced they are invincible from malware infections. Finally, don’t trust anything, or as Softpedia put it, users should not:
click “Trust” on the popup that appears every time they connect their phone to a new computer
This is yet another situation where malware and vulnerabilities have been lurking beneath the surface for a long time. As detection abilities become more sophisticated, I think we can expect to see this happening a lot more in the coming months.
Sue Marquette Poremba has been writing about network security since 2008. In addition to her coverage of security issues for IT Business Edge, her security articles have been published at various sites such as Forbes, Midsize Insider and Tom’s Guide. You can reach Sue via Twitter: @sueporemba