Security Software for Mobile Devices Gets Serious as Threat Grows
To put a new twist on an old ad campaign, viruses aren't just for Windows machines any more.
Malware, phishing attacks and Trojans are following the money which means following the users and taking aim at more mobile platforms. Those targets now include Apple's iOS, Google's Android operating system, popular social-networking sites and even Nokia's soon-to-be defunct Symbian OS.
According to a recent report from security software vendor McAfee, mobile malware increased 46 percent from 2009 to 2010, and 55,000 new malware threats are emerging every day.
Fortunately, security firms aren't standing still, said Catalin Cosoi, head of the online-threats lab at Bucharest, Romania-based security company BitDefender.
There are at least a dozen new programs that are designed to protect smartphone owners, ranging from simple smartphone location-and-wipe services to virus scanners and text blockers, with an increasing emphasis on the Android platform .
AVG: The Czech company offers a free AVG Antivirus program for Android phones and a $9.99 Pro version that scans handsets, warns of potentially unsafe settings and offers remote location should the phone be lost.
BitDefender: The company offers BitDefender Mobile Security for Nokia's Symbian phones and Windows Mobile 6 phones, and has an almost-finished beta version of SafeGo for Facebook available to help social-network users avoid malware attacks.
BullGuard: The Danish firm offers Mobile Security 10 for $29.95 for Android users, as well as versions for Symbian, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile 6 handsets. Features vary depending on the OS, but usually include anti-virus and anti-spyware tracking and parental controls that can be used to block texts and spam.
Lookout: Lookout Mobile Security is available for Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile phones. A free version includes a lost-phone location service, backup and scanning that analyzes apps as you download them. A premium version with more features is available for the Android platform for $29.99 a year.
Kaspersky Lab: Kaspersky Mobile Security 9 protects Symbian and Windows Mobile 5/6 phones with real-time anti-malware scans, lost-phone location and additional encryption and password features. The software is $29.95 a year.
McAfee: McAfee Mobile Security for Enterprise is designed for corporate IT departments with phones running Windows Mobile 5 or 6. It offers complete scanning and works to prevent threats from spreading wirelessly onto an enterprise network. For individual users, there's McAfee WaveSecure for Android, Blackberry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile phones.It does not include a scanner, instead focusing on backing up data and wiping lost or stolen phones for $19.90 a year.
Norton: Norton Mobile Security for Android phones is in downloadable beta now. Like the already available Norton Smartphone Security for Symbian and Windows Mobile 5 or 6, it includes anti-theft features, anti-malware and virus scanning, as well as text message and call blocking.
Trend Micro: The Japanese company's Mobile Security for Android is a $3.99 anti-phishing and call- and text-blocking app that doesn't yet include a phone-location service.
While there's a large number of programs for Android phones, experts continue to assert that the platform isn't any more vulnerable than other mobile operating systems.
Many security firms are working to add support for Apple's mobile products as well. For example, Zscaler just announced Zscaler Mobile, which adds support for corporate-network-connected iPhones, iPads and Android devices to its enterprise products.
Nevertheless, the popularity of apps is contributing to the increased threat of infection since most users rarely bother to read the requested permissions each app requires.
This can lead to SMS threats wherein the malicious software contacts premium numbers (incurring charges) and transmits confidential information, such as passwords and account numbers, to hackers.
Most consumers are familiar with e-mail-based threats. However, many don't understand that the same threats exist in the mobile and social-networking sphere.
Analysts say the latter is especially worrisome since people who use services such as Facebook assume that the well-known corporate logo implies that a system is free of possible viruses or hacking attacks.
"Users made a lot of progress in the last few years in terms of education regarding computer malware and spam," said BitDefender's Cosoi. "The problem is that they have to do this all over again, since the threats are changing and evolving."
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