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Smartphone Malware Multiplies
Written by Daniel   
Tuesday, 08 June 2010 16:35

From Dark Reading

More than twice the number of malware and spyware hitting BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Android phones than six months ago

The number of malware and spyware programs found on smartphones has more than doubled in the past six months -- and some types of malware are more prevalent on certain smartphone platforms than others.

New data gathered from users of a free smartphone security tool shows the bad guys are increasingly going after smartphone users. According to Lookout, which offers a free lightweight mobile client with cloud-based security, backup, and anti-theft features, there were about nine pieces of malware and spyware per 100 smartphones as of last month -- more than twice as many as in November 2009.

Even more worrisome is how rapidly these threats are hitting smartphones in comparison to the desktop: What took 15 years to evolve with the desktop machine is happening practically overnight in mobile handsets, security experts say. "We call this the 1999 factor: It feels like about 10 years ago in terms of prevalence of threats. There was a tipping point between 2000 and 2002 [for PC threats] that was driven by broadband" and more consumers going online, according to John Hering, CEO and founder of Lookout, formerly Flexilis. "The same trends are going to hold true here [with smartphones]."

Tyler Shields, senior security researcher with Veracode, says he has seen a definite uptick in malware arriving for smartphones during the past few months. "It's coming at a much faster rate now. It's difficult to quantify the amount of growth," however, he says. Shields earlier this year developed and released proof-of-concept source code for a spyware app he created that forces a BlackBerry to hand over its contacts and messages. The spyware can also can grab text messages, listen in on the victim, as well as track his physical location via the phone's GPS.

Spyware is the main type of malware Lookout sees being created for BlackBerrys, while Windows Mobile phones suffer more from traditional malware, and Androids from a little of both, according to Lookout's data. "We're seeing a pretty equal spread [of the threats] across these platforms," Lookout's Hering says. The firm doesn't yet support the Apple iPhone in its app, so data on the iPhone isn't included.


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