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Mobile Malware to rise in 2006 – McAfee

US based Anti-virus major McAfee has sounded a warning bell for users of mobile phones. The harm caused by new mobile threats are likely to be more extensive than compared to today’s PC threats. This is mainly due to the large volume of smartphones being shipped around the world and a small percentage of them being protected by mobile-security measures.

In a statement, the company said the number of mobile viruses will grow considerably as well as the number of phishing e-mails and online identity-theft attacks in the coming year.

Allysa Myers, a virus-research engineer on McAfee’s Avert team said, “McAfee estimates that in 2005, there were 226 mobile viruses out there, next year, a further 500 will be created, taking the number of mobile viruses to around 726.”

Myers said that the core area for virus creators will remain on the PC, but users of mobile devices can expect to receive phising e-mails because it’s now being used for wireless payments and people storing personal information on them.

The first mobile malware was created by a group of professional virus writers in June 2004, the first proof-of-concept virus for smartphones running Symbian OS. After that the first virus “Duts” for Windows Mobile OS was released.

McAfee warned that mobile malware targeting different operating systems can infect approx. 200 million connected smartphones simply because the majority of them lack a mobile security cover.

Mobile malware has grown almost 10 times faster than the PC malware over a comparing period of one year, according to the company. But not everyone is convinced according to Sophos, a rival antivirus software vendor, “There are a tiny number of mobile-phone viruses compared to the threat on the Windows platform. All the evidence suggests that organized criminals are perfectly happy continuing to focus on attacking the many vulnerable Windows-based computers out there rather than developing malware for other platforms”.

UK based, Sophos did acknowledge that there will be rise in mobile phone viruses in 2006, but ruled out any serious security risk. It said, “Companies would be sensible not to let security vendors divert their attention from where the real malware battle is currently happening — on Windows computers”.

Though, mobile malware creators have learnt their lessons from PC hackers and virus writers to create sophisticated threats, invisible to the user, thus providing the creator with financial gain.

The best bet to fight the mobile malware security problem is the network-based anti-virus solution according to Neil MacDonald, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst of information security, privacy, and risk as he says, “Since 99.9 percent of all content is received over the carrier’s network, removing it there makes more sense than equipping each device with local host-based antivirus protection and dealing with the issues of manageability, signature updates, and software updates.”

About Ritwik Sinha

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