What Threats Are Unique To My Mobile Device?

November 30, 2012
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Imagine your body being targeted by 75 million viruses. That is exactly what’s happening to your digital devices and mobile devices are being targeted like never before. Mobile smartphone and tablets are being targeted in record numbers.

Android has become the most popular platform for new malware, and in McAfee’s Second Quarter Threats Report, was targeted exclusively by all new forms of mobile malware. The Symbian OS (for Nokia handsets) remains the platform with the all-time greatest number of viruses, but Android is the main target for hackers now.

With the increase in mobile malware, it’s always a good idea to stay educated on how you could be exposed. And there are some things to be aware of that are unique threats to your mobile device such as:

QR Code Scams
QR code infections are relatively new. A QR scam works because, as with a shortened URL, the link destination is obscured by the link itself. Once scanned, a QR code may link to a malicious website or download an unwanted application or mobile virus.It’s a good idea to refrain from clicking QR codes from unfamiliar sources. Stick to codes provided by known advertisers or vendors, as these are least likely to be infected.

SMiShing
SMiShing is a version of phishing in which scammers send text messages rather than emails, which appear to have been sent by a legitimate, trusted organization and request that you click on a link or provide credentials in a text message reply. The term is a condensed way of referring to “short message service phishing,” or “SMS phishing.”Once you understand how it works, you are better positioned to recognize SMiShing, and to avoid clicking links within text messages or otherwise responding to such ruses.

Premium SMS fraud
McAfee Labs™ reports one of the simplest ways to generate profit from malware attacks on mobile devices is to place a call or send texts to pay-for premium numbers. If this activity is infrequent (for example, only once a week during the night) and concealed (by erasing the logs and using the hiding capabilities of rootkits), then it may go unnoticed for a long time.The key property to this malware’s popularity is the software’s ability to covertly send messages. In this case, Android is more risky than iOS because in Android permissions are assigned once at installation and cannot be dynamically controlled.

Jailbreaking or Rooting
Jailbreaking is the process of removing the limitations imposed by Apple and associated carriers on devices running the iOS. To ”jailbreak” means to allows the phones owner to gain full root access to the OS and access all its features. Similar to jailbreaking, “rooting” is the term involving the process of removing the limitations on any mobile or tablet running the Android operating system. Jailbroken and rooted phones are much more susceptible to viruses and malware because users can avoid Apple and Google application vetting processes that help ensure users download virus-free apps.

Expect more scams and more scam warnings directed toward your mobile devices going forward. As mobile cybercrime evolves and criminals begin to make some money, they will have the resources to hire crackerjack programmers to do their deeds. The time is now to secure your devices.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Evangelist to McAfee. Watch him discussing information he found on used electronic devices YouTube. (Disclosures)

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