McAfee AVERT Labs predicts a substantial increase in security threats to mobile and handheld devices next year. In its recently released 2006 Threat Forecast, McAfee calls mobile malware a “serious cause for concern” due to the relatively small percentage of devices that are protected by mobile security.
McAfee contends that consumers are less likely to install security software on mobile devices, because the perceived risk from mobile threats is much less than the perceived risk to PCs. In reality, mobile malware writers have the ability to create sophisticated threats, with potential financial gain, invisible to the consumer.
In 2004, the “I Love You” virus penetrated tens of millions of PCs in just a couple of hours despite the fact that half of all PCs had Internet security software installed, according to McAfee. By comparison, a mobile threat targeting several operating systems could infect up to 200 million connected mobile phones simultaneously because the majority of these devices lack security protection. Such “instantly mature” mobile threats can devastate networks and consumer data with little fanfare or warning, McAfee suggests.
McAfee also predicts that phishing scams will continue to be a problem, as attacks become increasingly more targeted through the use of spyware programs and password stealers. Flaws in email protocols, security weaknesses in browser software, and a lack of basic computer security education will all contribute to this increase in phishing incidents, the company says. Also expected are more attacks that take advantage of people's willingness to help others in need, as evidenced by the phishing attacks that followed Hurricane Katrina, McAfee adds.
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