I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The more your smartphone becomes a PC, the more viruses and malware will be a problem to phones.
And I don’t just mean this in my vain hope that at some point an x86 SoC will turn the phone into the next shrink in portable computing, able to run every same program that your PC can as if the phone really were a PC … because it finally is.
I mean it literally, the more your phone can do, and the larger the target “market” becomes, the more likely someone is going to write a virus for it.
And now I have McAfee backing me up. (Warning! Sadly, with a PDF file, almost as though McAfee doesn’t even understand security at all…)
So for those of you disinclined to trust opening any PDF file (and I certainly wouldn’t blame you), or for those too lazy to read through all of that gobbledy-gook, what does McAfee have to say then?
Basically it’s simple: Now that smartphones are so easily capable of mass-emailing on networks with decent speed and lots of data, they make great spam zombies. Android, by merit simply of having he largest market share, is the biggest smartphone/tablet target. But don’t by any means declare your Apple iOS device safe just because it isn’t as likely to be targeted for having a smaller market share. Being in a smaller market share isn’t a replacement for real security. Just ask Apple Macintosh owners who have to put up with real security threats, even if Macs aren’t nearly so common as Windows PCs.
Basically, no matter what your device is, be it phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer, if the bugger connects to Ye Olde Interwebs in any way, you need security software. Antivirus and firewall at the very basic, but thorough anti-malware packages if you please.
According to Vincent Weafer, Senior Vice President of McAfee Labs, “Attacks that we’ve traditionally seen on PCs are now making their way to other devices.”
No s___, Sherlock! You heard it there last. McAfee VP of Obviousness has made the connection.
Granted, one could possibly try to argue that this being McAfee writing up that report, of course they’re going to say be afraid and buy more software. Especially from McAfee.
But frankly, regardless of the mouthpiece for better security, only an idiot can think that their internet-enabled device is safe without any security software to protect it.
I mean seriously. If you surf, you’re at risk. Period. The internet may have many great things about it, but it is also a cesspool of viruses. Anything that can access the internet is at risk of infection. There’s no such thing as inherently “safe”.
Besides the common trend of spam botnets to make a little cash, since any internet-enabled device can be taken over to send out loads of spam to people, there’s also an increase in the trend of data-jacking, AKA “ransomware”. Hackers are all too happy to use software to hold your pictures, songs, movies, documents and files hostage until you pay them. (If they even bother to release your data at all after you pay them. And if they don’t use your payment as the beginnings to the means to try to drain your bank account dry.) And that’s just the hackers trying to make a buck. There are also always those that just want to hurt the world.
I know that you don’t think of your phone as a computer. It doesn’t sit on a desk. You don’t have a keyboard and mouse. (Okay, maybe you might have a keyboard of some kind.) You don’t sit down to use it. There’s no big Microsoft Windows logo. It’s not a computer.
Except that it is.
Inside of your phone is a processor and memory. Your phone runs an operating system. Your phone can install software. Your phone connects to the internet. Think about it. It IS a computer. It’s just a very tiny computer. Just like desktop computers became laptops and laptops became netbooks, just keep following that shrinking train, netbooks became tablets and tablets became phones. (Figuratively. A literal technical path would be a lot more confusing.)
So these days, have phone, have target for hackers.
It’s that simple.
And as a side note, so far, phone security software sucks. Yes, I said it. It’s like any nascent software. The first few versions just don’t have what it takes. There’s a learning curve: what’s needed, what can be done, how to do it, etc. So far security on phones and tablets is just plain crap. Anything is better than nothing, but let’s face it, computers aren’t even 100% safe and we’ve had all this time to get that right. This whole security on phones idea is new, and so phones just aren’t even close to as secure. And we keep adding more entry points. There’s your phone/data network. There’s Wi-Fi. There’s Bluetooth. And now there’s even NFC. No one is safe. There’s no platform that is inherently secure. (In fact, Apple iOS and Google Android both have alarmingly poor security concepts.) At absolute best you’re just not in someone’s sights … yet.
But as even McAfee now admits, the proof is now real infections, not just theoretical “coulds” and “shoulds”. Hackers are out there, doing what they’ve always done since the dawn of computers. And your phone is now a computer. Whether you knew it or not doesn’t make it any less a target for hackers. So don’t hide your head in the sand and hope for the best. Be proactive. Secure your phone. Secure your tablet. And tell your friends and family to do so too. They’re not just people you love, they’re also potential sources of infections that you interact with frequently. Do it for them. Do it for you.