Posted on | January 28, 2013 | 2 comments
Editor’s note: By all accounts, this will be the year when spammed text messages and nuisance adware proliferate on mobile devices, particularly on the Android platform. In this guest commentary, Alex Balan, head of product manaegment at mobile security startup BullGuard, recounts how mobile attacks inexorably evolved over the past eight years.
By Alex Balan
Since the first case of mobile malware was discovered in 2004, the threat has increased at an alarming pace. By 2010, the first bank-phishing mobile malware was identified, and total mobile malware increased 250% over the year. Some analysts expect it to double again. A major driver for mobile malware is the increased use of smartphones, tablets and associated apps.
Cyber criminals are focusing on developing malware to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Popular Android apps, which are available for download at Google Play and third-party app stores, are a primary target due to the open-source Android platform, which is easier for cyber criminals to exploit.
Android app stores struggle with security issues. Recent research revealed that Google’s App Verification Service in the latest Android version, Jelly Bean, identifies only about 15% of known malware compared to existing third-party apps from dedicated mobile security companies. As more mobile users seek apps to download in 2013, they are therefore much more likely to fall victim to malware if they rely solely on Google’s security measures.
Another activity that drives malware development is the increasing popularity of mobile shopping. People are using tablets and smartphones to make purchases, buy game credits and conduct online banking. It’s convenient for consumers, but those who use these features via unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots in public places are putting themselves at risk. Cyber criminals will likely exploit this vulnerability even more in 2013 as mobile shopping increases, and they will probably target Android devices first.
But it’s not just an issue for Android users: Device security is an issue, no matter what the mobile platform. More than 250,000 Android users have been affected by malware. In 2011, a single hacker pleaded guilty to stealing data from more than 100,000 iPad users. Symbian, Microsoft and BlackBerry devices have also been successfully targeted and attacked, and new malware is launched every day.
Children are also at risk. The use of mobile devices has skyrocketed among minors, with more than 75% of 12 to 17-year-olds now using mobile phones. Kids are especially vulnerable to security threats, which can come in the form of phishing, spyware, malware, Wi-Fi snooping, worm programs and much more.
Parents need to keep tabs on how their children are using mobile phones, just as they monitor their online activities at home. To ensure children are protected and to provide security to counter the increasing threats from malware for users of any age, consumers should look for a security app that is simple to use. An intuitive user interface is the key to keeping mobile entertainment, communication and productivity tasks safe.
The bottom line is that everyone who uses a mobile device needs to keep their sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. The best strategy for managing the threat is to keep it simple by finding a solution that combines best-in-class technology with an intuitive user experience. Since users are more likely to protect their information if the mobile security app is easy to operate, consumers who are considering an additional layer of protection should research the available options and choose a solution that is easy to use. By keeping mobile security simple, consumers can keep their vital data safe while on the go.
About the Author: Alex Balan is Head of Product Management at BullGuard, a global, private company with offices in Europe and the US, focused on online and mobile security.