Hidden malware poses great threat to mobile users

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Mobile phones have effectively become powerful, portable computers, and the first phones with dual processors are now on the market. This makes them vulnerable to the same threats as desktops and notebooks, such as viruses and identity theft.

“Consumers are using mobile phones for the same tasks that they have used computers for in the past,’ says Claus Villumsen, mobile security expert with antivirus company BullGuard. ‘People use their handhelds for online banking, e-mailing and social networking, consequently moving their digital identity on to the device. Troubles arise when others gain access to the phone or if the phone is infected with malware, viruses or spyware, which is a growing problem.”

Villumsen points out that many consumers do not take mobile security seriously and a 2010 report from BullGuard’s technology partner, Juniper Networks, concluded that 85% of smartphone users were not employing an antivirus solution on their mobile device. ‘It is simply not something you worry about, despite an alarming rise in the number of infected phones. For example, Juniper Networks has also just reported a 400% increase in Android malware since summer 2010.’

It is an alarming increase. In fact, according to a survey from the IT Safety SANS, 20% of smartphones that were using anti-virus protection had detected various types of malware, and the malware you carry around in your pocket is far from harmless. If this figure is seen to be indicative of the rising number of threats, improved security for mobiles has now become essential. Unfortunately it’s not just down to the consumer to exercise safe practice, as these threats are often cleverly disguised.

‘61% of the malware detected on the phones tested was spyware. Spyware monitors all traffic to and from the phone and is very difficult to detect because it does not affect the phone’s functionality. If you are attacked, it can only be discovered by professional security software,’ says Villumsen.

Two rules of thumb in relation to mobile security is to install a security solution on your smartphone and to always double check that the applications and programs you are downloading are from a trusted source . If, for example, you download applications from Android Market, you should be aware that applications are not security cleared before they are presented to users. Apps for iPhone and Symbian, however, are cleared and so currently represent less of a threat.