McAfee has released research results on seven targets of opportunity for hackers to attack smart phones based on Windows Mobile, the Microsoft operating system. In the "Mobile Malware: Threats and Prevention" white paper, researchers at McAfee Avert Labs discuss threats such as compromise of a phone's contents and turning a phone into a remote surveillance device. Researchers also offer tips for users to reduce their risk of possible attacks.
"Carrying a smart mobile phone is like having a powerful computer in your pocket," says Chris van Niekerk, regional director: Africa at McAfee "With power and convenience comes a cost. These smart phones face security threats, just as our desktop and laptop computers do."
Avert Labs predicts a continued rise in malicious software for smart phones as the price of smart phones drops and adoption increases. In particular, according to Avert Labs, threats to Windows Mobile may significantly increase because its current design leaves opportunities for malware writers.
During its research of Microsoft's Windows Mobile, Avert Labs found threats including unintended exposure of device contents, such as text messages, e-mail, documents, call records and contact lists. An attacker could monitor calls or use a type of Windows Mobile-based phone as a remote surveillance device, complete with voice, pictures and video.
However, according to Avert Labs there is no reason for immediate alarm. Mobile malware that exists today doesn't pose a significant risk.
"Right now we're in the early stages of what is likely to become a longstanding trend. We can't let our guard down," says Zhu Cheng, a research scientist with Avert Labs and author of the white paper. "It is essential to exercise caution when using your smart phone."