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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Thieves and cyber-criminals on the run from latest mobile anti-virus software

With mobile technology becoming ever more sophisticated, the threat to mobile devices from viruses and other malware is on the rise. In 2010, one of the earliest malicious programmes targeting smartphones was detected running on Google’s Android system. It had already infected mobile devices by sending SMS messages to premium rate numbers without the owner’s knowledge or consent. Other mobile viruses have harvested users' IMEI numbers, using them to clone phones for criminal purposes.

While the current threat level is small, businesses in particular should think about incorporating mobile security into their wider free antivirus programmes. This year, there have been reports of several viruses targeting Apple's iPhone and of a new family of worms using SMS text messaging to spread malware among third generation Symbian devices like the latest Nokia handsets. Internet security experts also predict that, as the use of smartphones to connect to company networks and conduct mobile commerce increases, the criminal gangs responsible for commercially-motivated PC malware will start to increasingly target smartphones and other mobile devices.

iPhones in particular are providing a challenge for mobile antivirus providers. However, most of the iPhone malware to date has only been able to infect users who have jailbroken their iPhones, bypassing Apple's fairly rigorous in-built security – and of those, only users who hadn't changed the default system password were vulnerable. Blackberrys, on the other hand, have so far remained immune to infection and Google's Android mobile OS has not yet grown big enough to prove an attractive target for hackers.

There is also the on-going threat that mobile devices could be used to smuggle PC-based malware onto corporate networks. Some internet security experts think it plausible that Bluetooth could be used to infect PCs from handsets. Currently, the biggest malware threat in the corporate environment is from mobile devices transporting purely PC malware such as 'autorun infections'. This is malware that spreads by copying itself to any kind of removable drive, including mobile devices.

How should smartphone users protect themselves? For starters, ensure users switch to Bluetooth 'hidden' mode. Antivirus software is also available which can protect and defend personal and professional data. They provide both antivirus and anti-theft protection for smartphones with a core and cloud defence system. Core protection shields smartphones from viruses, spyware and other malicious programmes, safeguarding stored and downloaded information and apps. The cloud protection operates on a different level using heuristic technologies and real-time protection to ensure that threats are neutralised.

Quality mobile antivirus software works quietly in the background, allowing users to send emails and text messages, add contacts and calendar events without popups. When an infected file is found during a routine or scheduled scan, users will be immediately notified and asked to decide to either delete the infected file or app immediately, or let it pass into the quarantine section. The quarantine area will keep the file intact, should the user decide to open it later, but it will contain any potential threats.

Another anti-theft feature featured in mobile antivirus software is SIM Watch. When a thief removes a SIM card and replaces it with another, the phone automatically sends the new telephone number to the phone’s real owner, without the thief's knowledge, so the police can track down the perpetrator and the phone. This feature can also be used to completely disable the device.

To learn about mobile security, watch this short BBC news feature.

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