Mar8

Mobile Security: The Dangers of the Coming Smartphone Revolution

Posted by Guest Blogger

2011 was a nasty year for malware intrusions on consumer hardware, costing the United States over $2.3 billion alone.

In the UK, precise numbers are harder to come by but if you design and maintain websites you have most likely experienced this issue at some point in your career, perhaps even as recently as last year with the famous Zero Day Vulnerability on WordPress which affected the uptime of a great many blogs and content management systems (CMS).

But, while these traditional threats are common challenges for designers and developers on traditional platforms such as desktops and laptops, they perhaps pale in the comparison to the coming dangers posed by the Smartphone revolution.

By 2013, web access via a Smartphone is set to exceed both laptops and desktops, according to Gartner.  This is also another reason for the explosive growth in mobile-friendly websites – See UK2 mobile product, GoMobi – and hence its arch enemy, malware.

ComputerWorld reported in late 2011, that mobile malware had doubled on Android Smartphones.   The figure jumped from 80 pieces of unique Android malware to over 400. This led Google kill more than 50 apps infected with the DroidDream malware from its directory.

But, this problem gets even weirder and more dangerous if you consider the massive capability of a Smartphone, including the much hyped QR code revolution that allows a user to scan an offline printed code and be instantly directed to a custom landing page URL

AVG Technologies reported in a 2011 Fourth Quarter Press Release that “Putting a malicious QR code sticker onto existing marketing material or replacing a website’s bona fide QR code with a malicious one could be enough to trick many unsuspecting people.”

The result is new, unexpected ways for hackers to compromise security on a Smartphone, now that the device operates and behaves just like a computer.

In another twist, AVG reports the emergence of ZeroAccess, a kernel mode rootkit, that allow hackers to spy on Smartphone users from a remote server.

“Waiting for commands from the criminals behind it, the rootkit allows the criminals to use the infected machine when and how they wish.”

The result is that AVG reported over a million malicious mobile events during the 2011 fourth quarter.  Interestingly, the UK has now jumped to second place from fourth, behind the United States, as the world’s largest source of spam.

This has lead web hosting providers such as UK2 to pre-empt this threat and offer new layers of customer protection with new mobile VPN packages. 

The technology wraps the user and device in a secure encrypted force-field, offering extremely limited avenues for a hacker to compromise your Smartphone while browsing the Internet or uploading web files.

In fact, the firewall software is device agnostic and can be extended protect both your laptop and desktop. 

Expect to see Private Data Networks encompassing mobile VPN’S (virtual private networks) becoming one of the hottest and most critical items for any website owner or developer who wishes to protect his data, device or website in 2012.

Guest Blogger: Jason Stevens from jason-stevens.com / Freelance web developer, tech writer and follower of cloud computing trends. Follow him on Twitter @_jason_stevens_

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