Feeds

Attack of the 50-foot mobile virus risk

Don't believe the hype - show us the malware

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Increased standardisation across mobile devices will make it easier for miscreants to write malicious code, a Gartner analyst has warned - but the familiar prediction overlooks a bigger threat.

The warning makes for a repeat of a long-standing anti-virus industry prediction that has yet to come to fruition. Meanwhile, the risks posed by sensitive data left on insecure mobile devices remains largely ignored.

Speaking at the opening day on the Gartner IT Security Summit in London on Monday, Gartner analyst John Girard said that increased standardisation across smart phones and mobile devices was making life easier for the bad guys. Advanced phones running the same OS used to have different implementations of mobile Java or different configurations, but Girard argued this is beginning to change, Computing reports.

"The more your phone gets like a PC, the more it can host malicious code or have its function altered by someone else," Girard said, adding that scam emails that form the basis of phishing attacks were likely to become more common on mobile platforms next year.

Gartner advises businesses to adopt device encryption and access controls, as well as insisting on a minimum set of security specifications in order to minimise possible risks.

Three years ago Girard and fellow Gartner analyst John Pescatore dismissed mobile malware as a "niche nuisance," until at least the end of 2007. It said that the conditions needed to spread mobile malware - a high penetration of smartphone and the routine exchange of executable files by mobiles - were yet to materialise.

At present, smartphone penetration hasn't reached the levels widely predicted. We'd add that expertise among virus writers about how to write mobile malware remains low - and since a handy profit can be turned from infecting PCs, the question arises of "why bother?".

Perhaps we've got a bit jaded from listening to at least ten years of predictions that mobile malware was going to be a multi-million pound problem next year or the year after. But the fact is that although Girard's argument scans well, he is rehashing a prediction that has failed to come to fruition time and time again.

It's true that mobile devices are becoming more sophisticated and commonplace both in business and at the home. Enterprises are struggling to cope with the trend of people using their own devices at work. The most immediate problem is not mobile malware, but sensitive data on lost or second-hand devices.

A recent survey by BT, the University of Glamorgan, and Edith Cowan University, Australia found that one in five second-hand devices contained potentially sensitive corporate and personal information, the BBC reports. The Guardian adds how the insecure disposed BlackBerry of a company director came back to haunt him after business plans on the device were exposed.

The issue is getting worse as the sophistication of mobile devices increases, which means that they store more data, while awareness of how to securely dispose of mobile kit remains low.

"Our work suggest that all so called 'smart phones' especially with web access in effect store a complete user profile," said Jon Godfrey, director of Sims Lifecycle Services, a firm that securely recycles mobiles, to the Reg. "When one looks at the pure volume of data on such personal devices and the user’s ignorance of the value of the data, this is a huge issue." ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.