Mobile devices face greater threat from malware

Security threats to mobile devices increased last year as the continued popularity of smartphones and tablets offered new possibilities to cybercriminals. 

McAfee‘s fourth quarter report showed that there was a 46 percent rise in new malware in 2010 compared to the previous year.

“As more users access the internet from an ever-expanding pool of devices – computer, tablet, smartphone or internet TV – web-based threats will continue to grow in size and sophistication,” it said.

Not only that but with multiple-device integration on the lips of every manufacturer, it could end up being a case of rule one, to rule them all, if you’ll excuse our bastardised Lord of the Rings.

It is believed that cybercriminals will continue to target Adobe’s PDF and Flash software which took over as the most popular target from Microsoft last year.

This is due to the widespread use of Adobe’s software in the mobile non-Windows environments  as well as the widespread use of PDF documents.

According to McAfee the Android OS, which is now the most popular smartphone software after jumping ahead of Nokia, has been the target of Trojan malware which has been able to bury itself in applications and games.

McAfee thinks the rise of Anonymous was symptomatic of the increase in political hacking, becoming high profile after leaping to the defence of Wikileaks.

Spam had significantly decreased, with 62 percent less from the beginning to the end of 2010.

According to Reuters, McAfee thinks the low spam pools were because of a transitional period, with a number of botnets going dormant at what would usually be a busy time of year.

However Graham Cluley, Senior Technology Consultant at Sophos, tells TechEye that we are still far off seeing levels of malware comparable to the threat continued to be faced by Windows.

“It’s true to say that there is some malware written for mobile phones, but it is a raindrop in a thunderstorm when you compare it to traditional Windows threats – we see 95,000 new pieces of malware a day for Windows. That’s more than one every second,” he said.

“Having said the problem is not huge, we have to be realistic and acknowledge that smartphones will be targeted more and more in future as users increasingly use them for online purchases, banking and so forth.

“The problem may not be huge at the moment, and most system administrators are probably going to be worrying more at the moment about devices being lost, unauthorised access and data being stolen than mobile malware attacks, but it will become an increasing problem.

“But let’s keep things in perspective and not lose sight of where the main malware problem is today: Windows desktops and laptops. It may not be sexy to talk about it, but that’s where the real malware battle is taking place.”