All Smartphone Users Need to Take Precautions

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-03-07 Print this article Print


The problem is worse with mobile devices because security software hasn't been a priority for mobile users. Everyone realizes that PCs running Windows are a target because computer viruses started showing up years ago. Of course, nearly everyone has heard the painful tales of just how much grief a malware infection causes. But nobody thinks much about security on Apple products because the Macintosh has been relatively free for quite a while. The same is true about BlackBerry devices, which don't have a PC version. 

But the fact is that the numbers of mobile devices are in the millions. These devices may be small, but they're fully functional computers with multiple paths for communications and they effectively insulate their users from the details of the operating system. This means that malware can invade your mobile device and you may never know. Or at least you won't know until Zitmo passes your banking information along to the Bad Guys. 

The solution, of course, is to install security software on your mobile device just as you do on your computer. In addition, you need to avoid the temptation to open e-mails that look suspicious, instead erasing them without opening. And, of course, you need to avoid visiting questionable Websites. It's easy to fool yourself into thinking that the malware in these e-mails and on those Websites will only affect your PC, but you'd be wrong. 

There was a time I'd use my BlackBerry as a means of screening e-mails before I opened them on my computer. I knew that Windows malware would never run on that device, so I assumed that I was safe. Now that I know better, I simply erase suspicious messages without opening them. I still use my BlackBerry to do that, if only because BlackBerry malware is much more rare than Windows malware. But I also back up my BlackBerry so that if something bad infects it, I can simply blast the whole thing away and reload it. 

But the risk to Android and non-Android devices will continue to grow. With Android devices you have a larger number of infection vectors than you do with Apple or RIM devices, but that doesn't mean that those devices are free from any risk, because they're not. Ultimately, the malware purveyors are going to see those millions of iPhones and those millions of BlackBerrys, and see very fertile ground. And that means that they're going to be coming after those devices in increasing numbers.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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