Finally Fast News: Smartphone Malware Explosion

Finally Fast News:

This year, smartphones have finally emerged as a mainstream technology for both consumer and enterprise use. Accordingly, smartphone malware has emerged as a top security threat, according to a recent study.

Mobile security firm AdaptiveMobile recently released its statistics on malware infections aimed specifically at smartphone users in 2010, finding a 33 percent increase from 2009. The fast growth in smartphone malware this year has brought the market to its highest level in history, creating an entirely new front for the battle against cyber crime.

“With the increasing pervasiveness of smartphone devices, 2010 has undoubtedly been the year that fraudsters have truly turned their attention to mobile platforms,” Gareth Maclachlan, chief operating officer at AdaptiveMobile, said.

According to Maclachlan, new smartphone malware creates two issues in the web security industry. In addition to developing new mobile security products, the industry also must expand education on safe web behavior beyond just malware directed at computers.

“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,” Maclachlan said.  Companies like Finally Fast and Ascentive have been combating online threats for years, but smartphone threats are a whole new can of worms.

Most new smartphone malware has been directed at the fastest-growing mobile operating system – Google’s Android. According to AdaptiveMobile, malware designed to infiltrate Android devices has grown four-fold since the beginning of 2010. Because cyber criminals generally focus on the largest targets, it is no coincidence that Android has been the fastest-growing mobile operating system in the smartphone market this year.

Interestingly, as Apple’s iPhone growth has remained steady throughout the year and its rapidly growing iPad tablet is based on the same mobile OS as the latest iPhone, malware targeting Apple devices declined this year. Others, such as Nokia’s Symbian operating system, also witnessed as much as 11 percent decrease in mobile malware. This could be the result of the malicious focus on Android.

However, a 45 percent rise in malware aimed at Java-based applications reveals growing sophistication in mobile malware, which Maclachlan expects to continue through next year.

“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,” he said.

These trends are expected to continue to grow as the smartphone market gets larger. According to Cisco, smartphones will make up 44 percent of the U.S. mobile phone market and 36 percent of that in Europe by 2012.

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