The start of a new year has prompted numerous predictions of what the mobile and technology sector can expect from 2011. We are promised exciting new apps and faster connectivity, but these innovations come at the cost of new dangers presented by malicious coding and cyber-delinquency.
The advent of the Smartphone, with its sophisticated operating systems, is nothing new. But their proliferation and rapidly growing popularity there are well over 40 million users in the US alone is increasingly drawing the unwanted attention of virus programmers who, like hungry wolves contemplating the arrival of fresh lambs to the herd, celebrate the adoption of Smartphones by the technologically ignorant as an opportunity for renewed mischief.
Previously, producers of Trojans and worms largely concentrated their efforts on traditional PCs, the sheer volume of global Smartphone activity has suddenly rendered mobiles a worthy target. This is reinforced by the capability of the devices that has allowed users to conveniently conduct their finances on their mobiles, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. There is a clear monetary incentive and opportunity for data theft, which characters from the murkier side of programming are taking advantage of.
Although attacks on mobile security date back to around 2004 (remember Cabir?), previous viruses were on the whole merely irritating rather than genuinely threatening. So far, the security risk to mobiles has been held in check by factors such as the existence of the iPhone App Store (which cuts out external app providers) and its various equivalents, the lack of compatibility across different models (which meant that viruses could be isolated and limited to specific makes of phone), and the fact that the vast majority of users were technologically aware and therefore harder to dupe.
However, with the increasing tendency to transmit sensitive information via a Smartphone, cyber-attacks on mobiles will become more common. Data will be stolen, destructive files downloaded and information illicitly transmitted. It is therefore important that users take precautions to reduce the chances of a successful attack: switch off Bluetooth when not in use; never download files you are sent without asking for; and beware that a device can catch a mobile-specific virus from an infected personal computer. No one wants to be a victim of a mobile WinCE/InfoJack; check out some anti-virus software – but don’t be frightened into making an unnecessary purchase.
About the author: Jude Harrison is a freelance technology writer.