McAfee: Mobile malware will increase in 2006

There will be an increase in mobile malware in 2006, which could cause extensive damage to mobile devices because only a small per centage of mobile users run security software, according to McAfee Inc.’s security research lab.

Mobile viruses, which first began turning up last year, are growing at a fast clip, according to McAfee AVERT Labs, the security company’s research arm. Mobile malware has grown nearly 10 times faster than PC malware over a one-year period, the company said.

Moreover, mobile viruses are potentially more dangerous than PC viruses because they can spread much more quickly, since mobile antivirus software is not yet as widely used as PC antivirus software. According to McAfee, e-mail and Internet users in general don’t see the same potential for attacks on mobile devices as they do on their PCs, which will compound the threat of mobile attacks in 2006.

McAfee, which is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its labs, also has bad news for PC users for 2006. In addition to rising mobile threats, McAfee said there will be an increase in both Commercial Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) and phishing attacks through Trojan horse programs. The Trojans turn infected computers into phishing Web sites and then spam PC users to lure them to the infected machine or site.

There was a 40 per cent increase in PUPs, such as spyware and adware, in 2005, and McAfee expects that growth to continue in 2006. However, the company noted that a raft of industry groups and federal authorities began a crackdown on PUPs in 2005, so there is potential to thwart some of these attacks.

Phishers also are expected to get more creative in the way they craft their attacks in 2006, the company said. Phishers in the new year will continue to exploit people’s willingness to help others in need, as they did after Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. Gulf Coast region. They also will more narrowly focus their attacks through the use of spyware programs and password stealers, according to McAfee. The company said it expects to see more password-stealing Web sites, and increased attacks that attempt to capture a user’s ID and password by displaying a fake sign-in page.

Popular online services such as eBay Inc. also will come under increased attack by phishers and miscreants who seek to steal online users’ identity, the company said.

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