Report says mobile security threats overblown -- for now

by David Needle

July 22 2013

How safe are smartphones and tablets from malware and other security issues? There have been plenty of reports highlighting flaws in Android that could, in theory, lead to some kind of malicious software taking over the device or making the data within insecure.

But as a new report in Scientific American points out, Web-related hack attacks are far and away more common while stories of high-profile attacks on Internet-connected mobile devices are hard to find. 

In fact, John Marinho, VP for cyber security and technology at the CTIA, the wireless industry trade group, says less than 2% of of 140 million smartphones in the U.S. have been infected with mobile malware. 

One of the reasons for this is that ubiquitous PCs are still the most attractive target for the would be bad guys. Also, as the Scientific American article rightly points out, smartphones and tablets are, for the most part, better designed than PCs to minimize the potential damage caused by viruses and other dangerous programs. 

And then there’s Apple’s legendary tight control over what apps can be installed on its iPhones and iPads which also helps the security of those devices.

Google, while far less controlling, has done a lot in the past few years with technology designed to root out potentially dangerous apps in its Google Play store, but it has no control over other Android app stores where problem apps continue to pop up.

“Android is a very secure operating system—if you keep it up to date,” says Charlie Miller, a security engineer at Twitter. 

Miller also notes in the piece that if people start using their smartphones and tablets instead of their PCs to do online banking and purchasing, mobile devices will become more appealing targets for attackers.

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