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Smartphones: Twice As Infected With Malware As Windows PCs?

Smartphones: Twice As Infected With Malware As Windows PCs?

Summary: Do you believe that smartphones might be twice as infected with malware as Windows PCs? A poll by a leading security institute indicates it might be so.

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Viruses, trojans, spyware - just a PC problem, right? Not according to the SANS Institute.

The cyber-security think-tank and training school discovered in an informal poll an 18% malware infection rate on its members' devices.

The rate could easily be higher. The 18% figure came from the small percentage of respondents (15%) actually looking for malware. That means 85% of respondents bought into the common belief about smartphones being less vulnerable than PCs and had no malware protection running at all. That's scary because as SANS readers, they are probably more security-conscious than the average. Meaning that the general population is probably more careless about mobile security than this demographic -- and more likely to be infected.

(Note: SANS asked members not to report fairly benign items such as cookies as malware.)

In fact, according to Infoworld, smartphones may be infected at twice the rate of Windows PCs today (7-10%, according to Microsoft).

The figures are probably startling to most of us. My BlackBerries and iPhone 3GS have occasionally crashed or suffered a mysterious malfunction. But I never chalked it up to malware.

On the other hand, consider that smartphones are as powerful in absolute terms as many 6-7 year old laptops. They run fast operating systems, they surf the Web, they run Adobe Flash, they run apps, especially jailbroken ones.

Anecdotal reports of smartphone infections were already trickling in. The SANS figures add some scary statistical meat to them.

Personal users can install one of the many free anti-malware apps that abound. But enterprise IT managers should consider higher-grade tools such as SMobile.

Or deploy SMobile as part of a larger device management and security platform, for easier administration. Sybase's Afaria has included SMobile's anti-virus and firewall softwareas part of its overall mobile device management suite for the past two years.

With so much crucial business data residing on these increasingly-powerful devices (superphones, anyone?) it seems like it would be better to be safe than sorry.

Topics: UberMobile, Android, Google, Hardware, iPhone, Malware, Mobility, Security, Smartphones

Eric Lai

About Eric Lai

I have tracked technology for more than 15 years, as an award-winning journalist and now as in-house thought leader on the mobile enterprise for SAP. Follow me here at ÜberMobile as well as my even less-filtered musings on Twitter @ericylai

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13 comments
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  • Android for sure.

    Android's market is a malware factory, and they just added tools to help anyone with nefarious intent build more crap. (Get an iPhone.)
    zd-crap
    • RE: Smartphones: Twice As Infected With Malware As Windows PCs?

      @zd-crap
      now theres a reall intelegent statement, NOT !!
      scruff40
      • RE: Smartphones: Twice As Infected With Malware As Windows PCs?

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    • RE: Smartphones: Twice As Infected With Malware As Windows PCs?

      @zd-crap <br><br>Is the solution to lock down the environment and force application developers through a funnel akin to the Apple Model?<br><br><hr><br><br>And while we are at it what about...<br><br>Should tobacco be illegal to posses?<br>...should pot be legal?<br><br>Should fast food be illegal?<br>...how about Doritos after you smoke weed?<br><br>Do you want to see fewer options or do you like choices (in general, not just with cell phone platforms, applications, and sources of applications)?
      Webbywarehouse
    • RE: Smartphones: Twice As Infected With Malware As Windows PCs?

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  • iPhone for sure.

    App Store is a malware factory, and they just added tools to help anyone with nefarious intent build more crap. (Get an Android.)
    anothercanuck
    • RE: Smartphones: Twice As Infected With Malware As Windows PCs?

      @anothercanuck : And soon the Android "store" will also get this crap.....
      Gis Bun
  • 7%-10% according to Microsoft.

    Ya, let's take Microsoft stats at face value. After all MS has never lied.
    anothercanuck
    • RE: Smartphones: Twice As Infected With Malware As Windows PCs?

      @anothercanuck

      Do you trust Apple more than Microsoft?
      Webbywarehouse
    • RE: Smartphones: Twice As Infected With Malware As Windows PCs?

      @anothercanuck : Seem to notice that you trust Google. Ya right. Why were they collecting data from WiFi spots when they were filming streets?
      Gis Bun
  • RE: Smartphones: Twice As Infected With Malware As Windows PCs?

    While the 15% figure could be greater, it could also be less, if the users they surveyed were atypical (how do they compare in terms of web usage or app installation.)<br><br>Also, as suggested by your comment about unexpected crashes, people may take that behavior and form a doubt about the software installed on their phone. (Resource constraints and possible memory leaks are far more likely reasons, if you ask me.)<br><br>So. Well, the question of attack vectors rather than the incidence probabilities of infection are more important to me, as a smartphone user. I really don't want this to be fodder for some loudmouths' os war fusillades. I want to know where the dragons are so I stay away.
    DannyO_0x98
  • RE: Smartphones: Twice As Infected With Malware As Windows PCs?

    @zd-crap and @anothercanuck
    That statement from zd-crap really got to you didn't it?
    I hope it really hit home... right in your Android loving hearts...
    dominic64_2003@...
  • On and on it goes

    and where it ends, nobody knows.
    klumper