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Archive for the ‘tablet’ Category

Mobile Malware Update

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Blue Coat Systems has published an interesting report on the state of mobile malware. The good news is that in the words of the report “the devices’ security model” is not yet “broken.” This means that smartphones and tablets are still rarely hijacked by viruses in the way that computers commonly are.

Now for the bad news. On the Android side (though apparently not yet on the iOS side), virus-style hijackings have begun to appear:

Blue Coat WebPulse collaborative defense first detected an Android exploit in real time on February 5, 2009. Since then, Blue Coat Security Labs has observed a steady increase in Android malware. In the July-September 2012 quarter alone, Blue Coat
Security Labs saw a 600 percent increase in Android malware over the same period last year.

But this increase is from a minuscule base, and this type of threat is still relatively minor on mobile devices. Instead the report says, “user behavior becomes the Achilles heel.” The main mobile threats are from what the report calls “mischiefware.”

Mischiefware works by enticing the user into doing something unintentional. The two main categories of Mischiefware are:

  1. Phishing, which tricks users into disclosing personal information that can be used for on-line theft.
  2. Scamming, which tricks users into paying far more than they expect for something – like for-pay text (SMS) messages or in-app purchases. Even legitimate service providers can be guilty of this type of ‘gotcha’ activity, with rapacious international data roaming charges, or punitive overage charges on monthly ‘plans.’

“User behavior becomes the Achilles Heel” is hardly a revelation. A more appropriate phrase would be “User behavior remains the Achilles Heel,” since in this respect the mobile world is no different from the traditional networking world.

Mobile Security and HTML5

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Smartphones and tablets have plenty of computing power to host malware, and they are simultaneously connected to the Internet via a cellular connection and to the LAN via Wi-Fi. So everybody in your organization has a device capable of by-passing your firewall in their pocket.

The good news is that smartphone OSes were designed recently enough that their creators were able to build security into the platforms using techniques like ARM TrustZone, and “chain of trust.” Technologies of this type are merely optional on PCs. Plus,the Android and iPhone app stores tightly control the applications that they distribute, and most people don’t take the trouble to avoid this protection. With these system-level and application-level protections, smartphones and tablets are intrinsically less vulnerable than PCs.

But there’s plenty of bad news, too. The chain of trust isn’t foolproof, and malicious code can get through the app store certification process.

On top of these traditional threats, a new one looms: HTML 5. Adobe Flash is so notoriously vulnerable that Steve Jobs refused to let it onto the iPhone. Adobe has now thrown in the towel, and committed to HTML 5 instead. HTML 5 is presumably safer than Flash, but it is untried, and it has powerful access to the platform more akin to a native app than to traditional HTML.

This means that we can expect a rising tide of smartphone-related security breaches.