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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

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CNET Editor

Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon

Loud and Clear

Poll: are you concerned about viruses on your smartphone?

(Credit: Apple/CBSi)

You probably have some form of antivirus software on your PC or Mac, and have some awareness of the difficulties that you could face if your computer were infected by malware of some description, but do you think of your smartphone and tablet in the same way? Should you be concerned?

Research In Motion's (RIM) senior vice president for BlackBerry Security Scott Totzke thinks you should be, and poses a persuasive argument for why. Speaking with CNET Australia during the BlackBerry World conference in Orlando, Florida, this week, Totzke said he believes that mobile devices could be in more danger than most users might suspect, because of the commonality of WebKit browser frameworks across all of the major operating platforms.

"In the past, we've had a diversification of platforms. We've had Windows, Apple and various Unix variants, and attackers would focus on an OS," Totske explained. "What I see in the industry today is a consolidation around WebKit, so now we've got a common browser framework ... and this engine is large with complex code shared with multiple people, and it now gives an attacker a framework that goes across multiple platforms and goes from mobile to desktop.

"One of the trends that we're seeing is that an exploit of a browser on an iOS device may translate into a similar exploit on an Android device or a BlackBerry device or a desktop browser."

Do you have antivirus software installed on your phone?

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Apps are also a major consideration for security experts, and the most widely known method for attackers to infect smartphones. Android smartphones seem to get the worst of app-related malware. Despite Google engaging its Bouncer software for detecting apps with malicious code at the submission phase of an app's release, there are regularly warnings issued with regards to malware-ridden apps on Google Play, including a recent app posing as the popular photo-sharing tool Instagram.

Troublingly, smartphone users infected by malicious apps will have glossed over many key warning signs on the path to infection. Dodgy devs may be able to spoof the name and icon of a popular app, but the company name is never the same as the Real McCoy. An app download is always preceded by a list of system functions that the app wishes to access, and will sound warning bells to vigilant smartphone users.

"If an application ... want[s] to have access to your address book, and what you just downloaded is a fitness application, it's worth determining whether you should say yes to that," said Totske.

So, should you treat your smartphone with the same care that you treat your PC? Given the volume of intimate information that most of us store on our phones, you could argue that protecting this data is even more important.

Leave us a comment below, and describe how you protect your phone — or why you choose not to.



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kalval posted a comment   
Australia

Not really concerned being on wp7 which has the only non-webkit based browser of the smartphone OSes, also the apps are very locked down (perhaps too much for some).

 

tysoncsmith posted a comment   
Australia

Like mentioned above for android phones, you'd have to enable 3rd party apps (step 1 fail) then manage to install a dodgy app posing as a real one (step 2 fail - why use 3rd part of a genuine app on play) then accept the permission which clealy state the functions (step 3 fail)
If you've managed to get this far its almost like your asking for it! I think your pretty safe if you stick to the play store and common apps. when you start mucking around the back door, thats when things get nasty. I also believe alot of paranoia is generated by antivirius companies looking for market share! sceptical maybe but i know i'm safe. There are apps on play to tell you which ones are potentially dangerous.

 

Jive Turkey posted a comment   
Australia

I'm not worried. I have a webOS phone, which is probably the smallest target for any malware developers.
I would if I had an Android or IOS phone, however. There have been plenty of reports of malware on both of those OSes.

 

AlexandraL posted a reply   
Australia

Same for me, I am not worried of viruses, not that my smartphone couldn't get infected, but I know If I don't download from dangerous websites, or anything like this, I may not have any virses, but I do recomment installing one of the antivirus software for mobile phones just in case.
Here are the ones that I think would do the job: http://www.theandroidgalaxy.com/top-android-antivirus-app-2012/

 

DavisF posted a reply   
Australia

I also have a webOS phone (Prē 3), and I certainly don't worry about viruses, but I did download a virus scanner when I had a Windows Mobile device (Palm Trēo Pro) simply because one was available.

 

Im Batman posted a comment   
Australia

I don't have any software currenly on my smartphone, but i am conscious of the potential issues that are out there.
The concentration of personal data on this device is far more significant than the previous PC era.

I haven't installed any software just yet, due to a combination of laziness and internal memory shortage.

I occasional see on the Telstra site, about its recommended Security app for Android, Lookout. I have had a few friends mention this one (one friends installed it on anothers phone as part of his support measures)
So will likely give this a look when i get a new device that is not so internally restricted.




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