This is the third installment of my series covering McAfee’s Threat Predictions for 2011. To make the predictions for 2011 more digestible, I’ve broken each area out to show McAfee’s drilldown on the risk, and what the risk means to you. Click here to read the first and second segments.
From McAfee Threat Report – Mobile: Usage is rising in the workplace, and so will attacks
Threats on mobile devices have so far been few and far between, as “jailbreaking” on the iPhone and the arrival of Zeus were the primary mobile threats in 2010. With the widespread adoption of mobile devices in business environments, combined with historically fragile cellular infrastructure and slow strides toward encryption, McAfee Labs predicts that 2011 will bring a rapid escalation of attacks and threats to mobile devices, putting user and corporate data at very high risk.
What this means to you
It’s hard to recall that most people have owned a mobile phone for less than 15 years. How did we survive without them? You may remember the early Motorola phones of the mid-nineties, then the first 0.3 megapixel camera phones and the carrier networks that couldn’t send those lousy images to other provider’s networks. Then we got SMS (text messaging) – and the all-powerful MMS communications, and ringtones. Remember the challenges of getting email onto phones, the time when we all carried a pager, a PDA and a cell phone?
We’ve watched this rapid sprint from barely mobile “bricks” to today’s sleek phones with incredible capabilities. We’ve seen mobile phone adoption rates go from nearly zero to over 90%.
Yet for all the difficulties and lack of functionality in those old phones, they held one advantage. They were too primitive, too customized per handset, and had too few users to be interesting targets for criminal exploits. The bad news is that era has passed.
Mobile technologies are now less fractured, standardized around key platforms, services and applications. The phones themselves come with amazing computing capabilities. And, the number of mobile phone users was projected to exceed 5 Billion worldwide by the end of 2010 according to The International Telecommunication Union (October 2010).
As with so many technical advancements, criminals can spot an opportunity 10 miles off, and they’ve bided their time until this confluence of factors came together. Prepping for this moment, over the past few years we’ve seen how criminals and hackers have probed for network weaknesses, devices weaknesses, and perhaps most importantly, consumer weaknesses.
Malware attacking phones will come via many methods, including text and multi-media messages, spam, downloadable content, and applications, and through access points like public Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth connections.
Defending Your Phone
Security companies have scrambled to provide mobile security software solutions, and if you have a smart phone, it’s time to purchase a mobile security suite.
TopTenReviews has created an excellent mobile security software comparison chart for consumers that I recommend.
Key features in these programs include antivirus protection, a firewall preventing unauthorized electronic access, antispam, and quarantine protection in real time.
Based on your phone usage patterns, the type of content you store on your phone, or if you’re helping protect a minor’s phone, some additional features may be of interest:
- Remote block and remote wipe to protect your information if your phone is lost or stolen.
- Protection of internal memory and contents stored on memory cards
- Ability to place phone numbers on either a black or white list – the ability to block people from calling is of keen interest to teens, and a key tool in blocking cyberbullies.
- Parental control monitoring
- SIM Card notice so that if your phone is stolen and the thief puts in a new SIM card, the phone will send you a notice of the new phone number to help track down the thief.
There are still far too few consumers that adequately protect their computers – only 37% of home computers are fully protected according to an Oct. 2010 report by Symantec – and this is a real safety, security and privacy issue.
Now, add your cell phone to the must protect list, or you’ll find that if it isn’t protected…. it will be infected. Get security software and install it today.
For more information about other mobile phone risks and tips, see my blog Using Mobile Phones Safely.