Is your smart phone infected with malware?

And how would you know, since you're probably not checking for it

Is there malicious software running on your smart phone?

Would you know about it if there were?

Chris Carboni, writing a blog entry for the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center, isn't sure you would know. ISC launched an online poll in June that allowed readers to report their experiences with malware on mobile devices. So far, as of July 12, Carboni reported that the poll shows:

  • Only 15.3 percent of readers are scanning mobile devices for malware.
  • Of those who are, however, 18.1 percent are finding it.
  • But 84.6 percent are not even looking.

The poll is unscientific, and only 540 people had responded by July 12, which Carboni admits "is not a particularly large sample."

However, he added, "I have been monitoring the statistics as responses are entered and the percentage of people reporting they found malware consistently ranged from 15-20 [percent] so 18.1 [percent] seems to be a reasonable number. Likewise the percentage of people who were not scanning ranged consistently from 82-86 [percent]. Based on those numbers, 83 of the 457 people who responded who were not looking for malware would be infected. Ouch."

Kelly Jackson Higgins, writing on the DarkReading blog, reported that malware targeting smart phones is a rapidly growing threat. The number of malware and spyware programs found on the phones has doubled in the first half of 2010, Higgins wrote on June 7.

"Even more worrisome [than the sheer number] is how rapidly these threats are hitting smart phones in comparison to the desktop," Higgins continued. "What took 15 years to evolve with the desktop machine is happening practically overnight in mobile handsets, security experts say."

Smart phones, as any user knows, can store vital personal information, including payment data, passwords and stored e-mail and text messages.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

Reader Comments

Thu, Jul 22, 2010 Editor

Many readers asked how to clean up their smart phones after we published this article. We've answered the question here.

Thu, Jul 22, 2010 Holt Roussel USA

I did not know that my iPhone was susceptible to malware. Actually never thought about it. Shame on me since I have several anti-malware programs running on my pc. So a question to your question. How do I know? And better yet, how do I have them removed if found?

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 Betty Pierce, GSLC Colorado

I agree with the other readers that people are looking for real-world advice, not just hand-wringing vagueness about the 'Sky is Falling'. For our $.02, we utilize Trend Micro 'Mobile Security', which is also part of their 'Security for Endpoints' suite and have been pleased.

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 KingMel Houston

@Stan Antivirus vendors take the exact same approach with Mac OS X. Every laboratory example of "proof of concept" malware is trumpeted as impending doom for all Mac users, even when nothing has been spotted in the "wild.". This malware FUD hype occurs multiple times each year, similar to one of those perpetual "going out of (for) business" sales. Ignore the sales hype and play it smart. Be careful regarding the source of your software, update your smartphone software with bug and security fixes, when available, and hope for the best.

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 Fairfax, VA

I read this article thinking I would get educated on what to do to address the issue. I switched from a Windows device to Android and I learned more about the issue from the comments that from the author. Where is the value in the article other than saying that mobile devices are at risk? Please, throw us a bone here.

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