From the Security Experts

June 02, 2009

Security Experts Warn of New Threats on Mobile Phones

By SIP Trunking Report Editor

Of course we all know there were mobile devices long before the iPhone 3G – smartphones even – but the Apple offering, launched last summer, took that market to a whole new level.

The virtual app store model has been picked up and essentially copied by BlackBerrry maker RIM, Nokia, and others, we’re seeing more and more touchscreen devices on the market. Smartphones are expected to double their share of the overall cell phone market by 2013, analysts say, and Google Android-based phone shipments are expected to grow 900 percent this year alone.
Along with that, we’re seeing more and more data – including sensitive, personal data – traverse the mobile Web.
Even before the iPhone was launched, security experts warned that many emerging smartphones and mobile devices essentially are unprotected.
Here’s what Daniel V. Hoffman, a mobile security expert who works as chief technical officer at SMobile Systems, told TMCNet during an interview: “Everybody has some kind of device, what we’re holding now is more powerful than laptops were seven, eight years ago. There are not a tremendous amount of threats that are publicly known. We haven’t been a big event, like the ‘I love you’ or ‘Melissa’ virus, that everyone talks about. The reason for that is that these hackers don’t want to be loud.”
In the workplace, too, where many employees rely on mobile devices, security has emerged as a serious threat. One expert from the world’s largest maker of computer networking gear – San Jose-based Cisco Systems Inc., Scott Pope, told us that many enterprises fool themselves into thinking that WiFi Protected Access 2, or “WPA2” – a security method that’s designed to assure people that only authorized users can access their wireless networks – is all they need to protect themselves from attacks.
In fact, Pope told us, WPA2 does cannot address hackers who enter a network from rogue access points, denial-of-service attacks, user authentication and data encryption cracking methods or network reconnaissance.
Now, according to Reuters reporter Tarmo Virki, security experts are warning that cybercriminals can leverage simple text messages, disguised as messages from a service provider, to get at confidential information.
“People in the industry aware of the risk see it as extremely small, as only a few people use handsets to access their bank accounts, but it is growing as mobile Internet usage rises,” Virki reports.
So far, according to the AP, cell phone security problems have amounted to small outbreaks, but new risks could be developing – especially in nations where screening text messages is not allowed.
“Consumers’ increasing fears over computer viruses’ ability to attack cell phones can put at risk the take up of new mobile services, which are crucial for operators looking for growth in mature markets, where call prices are falling,” Virki reports.

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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan