Smartphone scams gaining traction
The exploding popularity of mobile devices and their many software applications is already being exploited by those out to steal personal information.
"We think 2011 is the year of the threat to the mobile device, particularly the mobile app," said Dave DeWalt, chief executive of McAfee Inc. security software. "There's an ecosystem of application developers who are building applications with the sole purpose of downloading to a mobile environment, making it very viral and then actually stealing from you," he said.
Games are particularly vulnerable to malware because they are the most shared, social-network oriented mobile applications, and players enter personal information on their sites.
Dan Shey of New York-based ABI Research said it's up to an app store or website to ensure that their software applications aren't concealing some form of malware.
He said the "Sexy Space" Trojan, disguised as a legitimate application, was introduced in 2009 and had a valid certificate from the Symbian operating system that was issued to a company in China before its true purpose was discovered. It let attackers send a link via text message to a malicious website, prompting a mobile to download the worm. Then, it would send similar text messages to all contacts listed on the phone.
Shey predicts the biggest threats to smartphones and tablets in 2011 will be phishing attacks. These will lure people to fake websites and trick them into giving away credit card and bank account numbers, user names and passwords.
Symantec's Marc Fossi said there will be enough smartphones and mobile devices with common operating systems that cyber criminals will create malicious code that targets them.
"While we haven't seen a lot of specific threats directed at these devices, I think that we're getting closer to that sort of tipping point," said Fossi, manager of development at Symantec Security Response in Calgary.
By mid-2010, more than 300 vulnerabilities were reported on Apple's iPhone, Fossi said, noting it's the same software that the iPad tablet uses.