Hackers Set Sights on Android Mobile Devices

Malware specifically targeting mobile devices rose 33 percent in 2010 as hackers quickly pushed out new campaigns designed to capitalize on the popularity of smartphones and the fact that far too many users cast caution to the wind when accessing and sharing data from their mobile companions.

The sharp spike in mobile malware, according to a new report from mobile security software vendor AdaptiveMobile, was to be expected as demand for smartphones and mobile apps skyrocketed to record levels in 2010.

And while most of these attacks -- like this summer's brutally effective Trojan campaign targeting Android-powered devices -- were fairly simple in design and execution, security pundits expect hackers will step up their game in 2011 with more complex scams that will exploit multiple smartphone features and weaknesses to steal data and spread more malware.

"The next year will see the emergence of the compound threat -- intelligent scams designed to exploit multiple phone capabilities in order to reap maximum reward for the criminals, before the user even realizes they have become a victim," AdaptiveMobile COO Gareth Maclachlan said in the report.

Android, Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) open mobile operating system, continues to take share -- mostly from competitors Symbian and BlackBerry -- but the success comes at a price.

AdaptiveMobile's report found that identified exploits for Android surged 400 percent from 2009 but quickly added that the total number of Android exploits is "still at a low level relative to older platforms."

In fact, Nokia's Symbian saw its number of identified new exploits fall 11 percent and the iPhone saw a similar percentage decline. Windows CE-based viruses rose 7 percent while the number of exploits impacting smartphones running Java-based apps jumped 45 percent from 2009.

"With the increasing pervasiveness of Smartphone devices, 2010 has undoubtedly been the year that fraudsters have truly turned their attention to mobile platforms," Maclachlan said. "The vast majority of consumers are acutely aware of the threats that PC-based viruses, spam messages and phishing emails pose, but many are still unaware of the risks associated with their mobile devices."

The report concludes that this trend toward more sophisticated mobile malware attacks will force wireless providers, mobile device makers and application developers to abandon traditional security technologies and find more responsive and intelligent alternatives to keep pace with hackers and malware proprietors.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


security, mobile, smartphones, hackers, malware