Is mobile malware really a risk?

Following on from the Samsung Wave and HTC Magic shipping with a malware-infected microSD card, we investigate into how much of a threat mobile malware is.

The first thing you'll need to do is recognise that your mobile/smartphone is just a mini-computer.

Everyone understands that PCs can be attacked and therefore need to be protected. Users need to bring the same perspective to their mobiles.

"Users need to understand that the mobile is valuable to a cyber criminal. It carries some, or all, of the same valuable information that they covet on your PC. Therefore, if they can get it from your mobile, they will do," explained Mallon.

Mallon advises that you install anti-virus software on your smartphone to protect you from the mobile malware that is present today and which will become more of a threat in the future.

You also need to be careful when you surf the internet using your smartphone. A phishing attack is agnostic as to the device you are using. So, remember to be wary of requests to revalidate logins, passwords and other personal information.

"We are seeing the implementation of SMS and MMS spam. Therefore, as with your PC and email spam, you could and should consider having a filter in place on your mobile to help you block this," he said.

Bamforth said that you should try and opt for a closed/proprietary platform such as iPhone or BlackBerry and make sure you only download signed applications.

"Many carriers recognise there is an issue, and try to keep it under control in their networks, so it may also be safer to look to the ones who raise it as an issue they deal with (you may have to press to ask how, but for example McAfee has a mobile security product aimed at carriers)," he explained.

Given the value of that device to you and all of the personal information contained on it, you may want to be able to lock or wipe the smartphone should it be lost. Many of the new breed of security products for smartphones will allow you to do this.

Mobile malware is as prominent an issue as PC malware is, and until all platforms have an equal marketshare, there's little chance of it fading.

A fragmented market means there's no clear leader in the mobile space. That poses more of a challenge for malware developers and creators to target one platform.

However, as Bamforth concluded, "If the opportunity is big enough, there will always be someone trying to exploit it."

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