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Mobile phones at the mercy of hackers and viruses

July 6, 2009 • Security

Increased access to the internet via mobile phones has increased the risk of being targeted by the viruses and hackers that prowl the internet. Security experts today all concur that mobile phones are the least protected devices in the entire computing arena leaving them at the mercy of internet evils.

The need for mobile phone protection has jolted security software companies such as Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab into action to focus aggressively on mobile security development for both consumers and businesses using mobile phones as an internet source.

Smartphones have become essential devices, with many people relying on them to run their businesses and lives. That being the case, we keep loads of personal and importantly, company information on our smart phones, creating a variety of security risks.

Smartphones are now essentially mini-computers with hefty processing power and ample storage capacity, business applications as well as email and network capabilities – meaning that many of us rely on these devices for business communications but have the potential to leave users open to security vulnerabilities.

In theory, the threats we currently face on personal computers can potentially be exposed on mobile phones if malicious code is unsuspectingly downloaded via the Web, through email or a Wi-Fi connection, or beamed via active Bluetooth and infrared ports.

Victor Dronov, Product manager – Mobile solutions at Kaspersky Lab, says that over and above the threat of viruses, worms and malware that are doing the rounds on mobile phones today, the most common form of company data leakage is mobile phone theft.

“The regulation of Interceptions of Communications Act states that whenever a mobile phone or SIM-card is lost, stolen or destroyed, the owner of that mobile phone or SIM-card must within a reasonable time after having become aware of the loss, report it to a police official at any police station.

“However, this doesn’t protect the contents on the mobile device. Anyone who has access to your device potentially has access to your confidential information, be it private or business related,” he says.

While this can have very serious implications, Dronov says globally companies are implementing measures to counter this, but few South African companies have a mobile phone security measures in place with strong encryption and authentication policies to ensure the data remains secure.

“Every device needs to have an up-to-date antivirus scanner, anti-spam protection, and a firewall, together with an anti-theft solution that can track the stolen device even after the SIM card has been changed,” Dronov says.

Research firm, IDC reports that the mobile software industry is steadily moving towards providing standard features found on all desktop administration solutions, such maintaining PC hardware and software inventories, performing software distribution, managing anti-virus scan files and enable remote control for systems diagnostics.

Kaspersky’s Dronov says this trend will continue as more and more applications make their way on to mobile devices.

“Fortunately, while these risks are very real, they aren’t insurmountable. It’s just a case of using your common sense, just like you would against threats in the real world,” he concludes.

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