Cyber criminals target Smartphones

AdaptiveMobile reports that 2010 has seen the highest ever number of mobile malware infections aimed at Smartphone users, with the number of reports up 33 per cent on 2009 figures.

Taking a year-on-year view, malware engineered for the Google Android mobile platform registered the most substantial increase, with the number of exploits identified throughout 2010 up four-fold, although the total number of Android exploits is still at a low level relative to older platforms.

The sharp rise comes as cyber criminals shift their focus towards those technologies and platforms that are likely to see the most widespread adoption in coming years, putting mobile subscribers at risk of monetary, privacy or data loss, often before the user realises there is a problem.

Smartphones running Java-based applications saw the second-greatest increase in malware reports, up 45 per cent over 2009. On the other hand, reported exploits aimed at the iPhone actually declined, as did Symbian malware, both falling by 11 per cent, while WinCE-based viruses rose by seven per cent.

"With the increasing pervasiveness of Smartphone devices, 2010 has undoubtedly been the year that fraudsters have truly turned their attention to mobile platforms,” says AdaptiveMobile's chief operating officer, Gareth Maclachlan. "The vast majority of consumers are acutely aware of the threats that PC-based viruses, spam messages and phishing emails pose, but many are still unaware of the risks associated with their mobile devices.

“With Smartphone penetration reported to reach 37 per cent in Europe and 44 per cent in the US by 2012, we predict that the number of threats targeted at unsuspecting mobile users will continue to increase at an exponential rate throughout the course of 2011," he said.

Significantly, the nature of the threats is expected to increase in sophistication. Whereas the majority of existing threats target either SMS, voice, email or web, the next year will see the emergence of the ‘compound threat’ – intelligent scams designed to exploit multiple phone capabilities in order to reap maximum reward for the criminals, before the user even realizes they have become a victim.

Maclachlan adds that “This trend towards more sophisticated attacks is set to shake up the telecoms and security markets as traditional approaches to protecting subscribers can simply no longer provide adequate protection. As these compound threats continue to emerge, so does the need for an intelligent approach to mobile security - keeping the industry one step ahead of the criminals to ensure that such threats do not reach mobile users in the first place.”