The growth of mobile phone usage seems to be rapidly outpacing the growth of mobile security adoption. For instance how many people are running anti-virus (AV) software on their laptops and desktops? And now how many are running AV on their mobile phone? There are several free anti-virus applications available for most platforms, including laptops, desktops, tablets or even smartphones. An informal poll conducted by SANS in July 2010 found that approximately 85% of smart phones did not have any AV installed. Of the 14% who did have AV installed, 18% had reported finding malware.
The thing I found strange about this poll is that security has seen improvements on the laptop/desktop side yet, our mobile devices have a fair bit more exposure and are left vulnerable. In 2010, Android had seen several firsts: SMS Trojan, Botnet, Monitored GPS, and even a Bank Phishing application. These firsts signal a dramatic increase of malware on the Android platform. One report, by McAfee, stated that the rise since last quarter was 76%.
Android is not the only mobile platform that is susceptible. Research has shown that there is a positivie correlation between the popularity of the device/operating system and the infection rate. This correlation is similar to that seen in the PC world and the same is true for the techniques that are being used to infect the victims. One of the largest threat vectors I can think of is the large volume of applications within the app stores. With such an influx of new apps, it is hard to ensure that each one is safe.
You may wish to thank me for a sleepless night, but you already know how to protect yourself because mobile phones are just small computers. So you should start by doing the same things you do on your laptops and desktops. First get some basic AV installed from a reputable source. Second, perform some research before installing any apps on your phone. If you are uncertain of the source then maybe it is not worth the risk. Afterall, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
What do you do to protect your mobile phone from malware? Share you thoughts, and techniques in our comments section.