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Mobile device gadget wars will have an impact on mobile security
In the run-up to the Christmas season, the mobile gadget wars are escalating as retailers seek the maximum proportion of the lucrative gift market. But there are hidden risks to the security of mobile gadgets, which may get overlooked in the rush.
This year the launches are coming especially thick and fast. In the smartphone category comes Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 operating system, as well as launches of Google’s Nexus 4, Samsung’s Galaxy Note II, and Apple’s iPhone 5. In the tablet category, devices newly launched include Microsoft’s “Surface”, Apple’s iPad 4 and iPad Mini, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, and Google’s Nexus 10, as well as Barnes and Noble’s Nook HD e-reader.
However, there may be trouble ahead. All these products rely on wi-fi and/or cellular phone signals for Internet access. The combination of portability and access to the Internet is potentially dangerous. Already there have been examples of malware for the Android operating system, capable of stealing a user’s phone airtime credit or personal details. Malware for mobile devices has been steadily increasing over the past year, and all the signs are that it will only continue to increase rapidly.
What makes the situation even worse is the fact that mobile device users are only dimly aware of the security threat. In the case of desktop or laptop computers, anti-malware software has been readily available for many years, and is known to be a necessary part of safe computer use. However, user awareness in the case of mobile devices has not yet reached the threshold level where anti-malware software is deployed as a matter of course.
Information security firm commissum (http://www.commissum.com), based in Edinburgh, Scotland, is concerned about the implications for consumers who may acquire a new mobile device over the festive season. Briony Williams, a security consultant at commissum, observes: “The deluge of new products launching at the moment, together with the lack of user awareness, makes for a perfect opportunity for hackers, and an especially lucrative market for them. What is needed is a user awareness campaign, coupled with low-cost or free anti-malware applications for mobile devices.”
commissum is especially well placed to observe these developments, as it regularly conducts security assessments of mobile devices for business clients. Martin Finch, Director of commissum, stated: “Only a proportion of business clients are sufficiently aware of mobile device security risks to arrange a security assessment. If even businesses do not always appreciate the very real risks, then it is hardly surprising if consumers appear completely unaware of them. However, this situation may change with the current spate of new devices, and we may be looking at some serious malware infestations early in 2013.”
Only time will tell what the true risks are for these new mobile devices. However, it is safe to assume that the risks will only increase as this lucrative market expands.