Cyberthieves Targeting Smartphones
September 10, 2012

Smartphone, Mobile Device Security Risks On The Rise

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Mobile phones and tablet computers are increasingly becoming targets of thieves and cybercriminals using viruses or other types of malware, security experts revealed in a series of reports released last week.

According to BBC News reports published Friday, mobile security development firm Lookout revealed that the percentage of mobile-platform malware programs designed to steal money increased from 29% to 62% over the past nine months.

The company said that the growth was due to an industrialization of these schemes, in which companies were using "booby-trapped apps," advertisements, and websites to sneak viruses onto smartphones and similar devices.

The technique is most prevalent in China, Russia and Eastern Europe, and much harder to pull off in the United States, explains eWeek's Robert Lemos.

He added that the technique typically requires users to sign up for premium services, such as daily horoscopes or programs that allow them to vote for their favorite reality show contestants, and charges for these services are typically added to a customer's phone bill.

"While it seems fairly simple, behind the scenes, there are enough complexities that it becomes difficult to identify the bad guys," Lemos said. "The software ecosystem available to users, and users´ own actions, make a big difference in whether they are at risk, the report found."

The study, which only looked at Android devices and not Apple iOS powered phones and tablets, discovered that -- thanks largely to the Google Play app marketplace -- less than 1% of Lookout users had malware on their devices. In comparison, 42% of Chinese, Eastern European, and Russian Lookout customers were infected when they installed the company's software.

A separate study, recently released by security firm Symantec, reported that PC and smartphone cybercrime cost users an estimated $110 billion worldwide, Ian Paul of PC World New Zealand reported on Monday.

The firm also reported that mobile threats doubled in frequency between two years ago and last year, and that 35% of all online adults had either misplaced their mobile device or had it stolen.

For the purposes of their study, Symantec described mobile cybercrime as "unsolicited text messages that captured personal details, an infected phone that sent out an SMS message resulting in excess charges (typically known as toll fraud), and traditional cybercrime such as e-mail phishing scams," Paul said.

The company reported that 31% of all mobile users had either received a text message from an unknown sender, an SMS including an embedded link, or a message asking them to call a certain telephone number to access a voicemail. "All of these techniques are tricks the bad guys can use to inject malware onto your phone or attempt to trick you into handing over personal data," he added.