Cybercriminals threaten tablets and smart phones

Tablets and other mobile platforms like smart phones are increasingly being attacked by cybercriminals, as are Adobe Systems Inc. products, according to the McAfee Inc.‘s Threats Report: Fourth Quarter 2010; attacks increased by 46 per cent from 2009.

“The introduction of iPads caught IT departments by surprise,” said Doug Cooke, director of engineering sales at McAfee. “Executives would come in with iPads.”

More people everyday are using tablets and smart phones at work and for personal use. This increases the threats of cyber attacks for these devices. Cybercriminals are aware of this increase in use and the use of this mobile technology in the enterprise, so they are hacking into these devices, according to a report by McAfee.

“Cybercriminals are keeping tabs on what’s popular, and what will have the biggest impact from the smallest effort,” said Vincent Weafer, the senior vice-president of McAfee Labs. “McAfee Labs also sees the direct correlation between device popularity and cybercriminal activity, a trend we expect to surge in 2011.”

The Canadian tablet market is dominated by Apple Inc.’s operating system iOS. However, more companies are releasing their own devices and operating system in addition to the increasingly popular Google Android operating system, according to Krista Napier, an analyst at IDC Canada.

“As these devices and operating systems proliferate, Internet thieves will naturally be more interested in targeting these popular platforms,” Napier said. “Today, the malware and attacks around mobile devices is still small compared to PC desktop and laptop attacks. However, with users jailbreaking their iOS devices, and Android’s open platform making it easy to download and install apps that are not officially in the app store, users could find themselves increasingly at risk.”

There has been steady growth in the attacks on mobile devices over the last few years. SymbOS/Zitmo.A, spyware that steals financial info from banks by SMS, and Android/Geinimi, a Trojan embedded in Android apps and games opening a back door to a botnet, were some of the recent threats to these devices. These attacks are a result of there being many new mobile platforms and a lack of security installed on mobile devices, according to McAfee.

Tablets and smart phones are vulnerable to botnet infections, according to McAfee. This is because there is a lack of security on mobile devices and there is a prevalence of botnet threats. Rustock, Cutwail and Bobax are the top three botnet threats.

Adobe products are also being infected by cybercriminals because these programs are popular and used by many people. For example, workers use Adobe Reader for e-mail attachments, according to Cooke.

“Hackers try to find areas where they can penetrate most and many places have Adobe,” Cooke said. “They want to get on a system because they want to get more money.”

There is software to protect mobile devices out by McAfee, Enterprise Mobility Management for Android and iOS, and even similar protection on Blackberry devices, according to an IT executive at a British Columbia financial institution who agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonimity. His fear is private company data stored on these devices will be stolen by hackers.
“We are being very careful, we have not yet started using those devices (tablets and smart phones at work),” the IT executive said.
Businesses must get their IT to limit applications workers are able to download on tablets and smart phones in addition to using anti-malware protection on this technology, according to Cooke.
McAfee found a total 20 million new malware threats in 2010 for all technologies including PCs and Macs, averaging out to 55,000 threats a day.

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