Will China's 3G Revolution Drive Threats?

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2009-01-23 Print this article Print

The big tipping point in the evolution of the mobile malware landscape may be on the horizon, literally and figuratively.

In an interesting blog post on its Malware City research site, experts from AV specialist BitDefender make a good case for just how development of the Chinese wireless market could indeed provide such a milestone.

As China invests billions to build out its 3G networks over the next several years, allowing millions more of its citizens to get wireless service, and pushing broader adoption of mobile Web applications usage, attackers will likely begin trying to take advantage of the growing population of potential targets, the theory offered by BitDefender Razvan Livintz goes.

"Chances are that the successful mobile Web usage hike [will] be shadowed by a menace lurking in the dark - mobile malware proliferation. The advent of 3G services means also the wide introduction and extensive usage of the smart phones and other intelligent high-end devices with permanent Internet access. An access that will focus mainly on Web surfing, downloads, on-line news, blogs' feeding, as well as on-line games," the expert contends.

Based on the ridiculous growth of malware infections on Chinese PCs during the second half of 2008 - charted at 545 percent compared to the first half of the year, when there were still tons of new attacks - it's not hard to imagine that the a massive wave of mobile device and applications adoption in the nation could result in a swarm of new mobile threats, or that those schemes might eventually find their way east.

And with the use of mobile Web applications lessening the effect that having multiple device operating systems has had in limiting prior attacks, the potential for wireless threats to spread widely and quickly has also been enhanced, the researcher said.

"2009 is already expected to be one of the most productive years in terms of mobile e-threats," writes Livintz. "Most likely, the malware creators will no longer limit to the various mobile OS flavors' exploitation, but will make the decisive step towards flaws and breaches in the third-party applications and plug-ins that cell phones embed for running specific applications."

While previous predictions of rampant mobile malware activity have proven largely unreliable, it would seem that many factors, including China, are coming together to finally set the table for a potential takeoff.

Only time will tell if we've finally reached that point.

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to SecurityWatchBlog@gmail.com.

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