These days, mobile phones are capable of sending emails, checking Facebook, playing streaming music, and a whole bag of other tricks. They’re essentially small computers that transport your digital persona wherever you go. The emergence of the smartphone has seemingly taken place overnight, and they’re only becoming more ubiquitous over time. Unsurprisingly, as they become more widespread among consumers, cybercriminals and malware authors are increasingly looking to capitalize on their rising popularity.
Statistics from a threat report for the first quarter of 2011 confirm a recent surge in mobile malware. Additionally, researchers believe that mobile attacks will likely get more advanced in nature. Cybercriminals may start turning smartphones into zombies in a botnet and using them in DDoS attacks. And threats like man-in-the-middle attacks may increase as Wi-Fi enabled devices become more common and people continue to trust public Wi-Fi hotspots. Even still, we’ve already endured a variety of mobile threats as is.
In January of 2010, the first bank phishing app appeared in the Android market, and in March of this year, a variant of the ZeuS banking Trojan surfaced that affects BlackBerry phones. On top of that, there’s an abundance of spyware apps that can obtain user data from mobile devices and transmit it to a third party server. And just to add a touch of humor, there was the mobile malware that made fun of “the Rapture”—the alleged “end of the world,” which some believed was supposed to take place on May 21st, 2011. The malware was a Trojanized version of a legitimate app (i.e., Android.Smspacem) that targeted the Android platform. It carried out commands remotely and instructed infected devices to respond to incoming SMS messages with texts that mocked the end of the world (e.g., “Cannot talk right now, the world is about to end”).
So it’s pretty safe to say that mobile malware is a legitimate reality that’s here to stay. Malware that targets the Android platform (one of the most popular smartphone platforms) has reportedly increased 400 percent since the summer of 2010. Yet while the volume of mobile malware is indeed growing, there’s also an undeniable human component that plays an significant role in the prevalence and success of online threats.
Many people tend to feel like smartphones are far safer than PCs, and as a result, they engage in activities on their phones that they would never perform on PCs. Be careful about the personal information you keep on your phones and be very mindful about which applications you download as well as where you get them. It’s time we start taking mobile malware more seriously.