Its immense popularity may turn the iPhone into a painful experience for Apple, if predictions that the mobile device will be a major security target in 2008 are realized.
IT security company Arbor Networks released a statement Tuesday declaring the iPhone to be a big target amongst cybercriminals next year.
Its Security and Engineering Response Team (ASERT) said the iPhone will fall "victim of a serious attack" in 2008, noting that the mobile device will likely be hit by "drive-by attacks". Arbor described these attacks as malware embedded in commonly used information such as images, which are capable of conducting "dangerous actions" when rendered in the iPhone's Web browser.
Because of the attention the iPhone generated over the past year, ASERT said hackers will be lured by the idea of being the first to penetrate the new platform and attack Apple users.
Arbor is not the first to issue security warnings about the iPhone. A team of U.S. security researchers in July said they had written two exploits capable of causing "serious problems" with the design and security implementation on the phone.
Research house Gartner also issued a cautionary note in June calling for enterprises to outlaw the Apple device from their office environment, due to lacking support from major mobile security tools and mobile e-mail vendors, among other issues.
A Gartner analyst, however, later predicted Apple may introduce an enterprise-class version of the iPhone that will better meet the requirements of a corporate environment.
Officially launched in the United States and Europe earlier this year, the iPhone is expected to make its debut in Asia next year, though Apple has yet to firm up an official launch date. The U.S. company is reportedly in talks with various operators across the Asian region.
Chinese spells trouble, too
According to ASERT, 2008 will also see an increase in "Chinese on Chinese" online attacks, involving specifically Chinese-language software such as QQ Messenger. Arbor noted that such attacks are expected to grow next year as new Chinese users join the online community, more software is written for the Chinese market, and Chinese cybercriminals become increasingly sophisticated and organized.
The IT security vendor also expects much larger Storm botnets and peer-to-peer attacks to be prevalent next year.
"2007 was the year of the browser exploit, the data breach, spyware and the storm worm. We expect 2008 to be the year of the iPhone attack, the Chinese hacker, P2P network spammers and the hijacking of the Storm botnet," Jose Nazario, senior security engineer at Arbor Networks, said in the statement.
"Online fraud is soaring and security attacks are now being used in countless and ever more sophisticated ways to both steal and launder money. Financial and other confidential data is being obtained, sold and utilized in the highly-developed black market," Nazrios said.
"In 2008, this market will continue to grow and it is important that businesses implement the processes and technology necessary to protect themselves and their customers."