Mobile viruses to be a major security threat in 2005

14 Feb 2005

This year could see an “epidemic” of viruses and worms that directly target handheld systems and mobile phones, a new report has warned. The signs were there last year following the discovery of a growing number of malicious software programs aimed at mobile devices.

During the second half of last year, a growing number of viruses aimed at PDAs and other mobile devices, such as the Cabir worm, were released. “It is likely that such worms will be used by copycats and may spur an epidemic of viruses aimed at mobile devices,” IBM concluded in its Global Business Security Index Report.

According to IBM, PDAs and mobile phones are the “new frontier” for viruses, spam and other potential security threats. In its report, it detailed how wireless technologies such as Bluetooth represent new targets for hackers.

However, other security researchers have noted that many of these mobile viruses are actually benign and do little damage besides spreading themselves to other devices.

The report also identified several other security trends for 2005. Chief among these is the kind of online scam that tricks users into revealing sensitive information such as credit card numbers, account user names and passwords. “There appears to be no end in sight for identity theft,” said IBM. “Phishing attacks that use ‘spoofed’ emails and fraudulent websites designed to deceive recipients … will likely continue to plague businesses and consumers.”

In addition, the company said that malware creators are using clever techniques such as basic software development practices to spread destructive software. Another trend for 2005 will be attacks on instant messaging systems.

Finally, this year will bring an increase in disruption to voice-over internet protocol networks – mainly in the form of eavesdropping and denial-of-service attacks.

By Gordon Smith