Mobile adult sites face hacking threats

Mobile pornography and gambling content providers will have to overcome strict government regulations and criminal gangs

Network operators and companies looking to provide pornography or gambling-related Internet content for mobile phones may face the same  extortion attacks that have plagued online providers, according to analyst group Gartner.

Gambling and pornography will be two of the largest revenue streams for the mobile Internet, Gartner predicted in a report released on Friday. But in Take Precautions Before Offering Vices on Mobile Phones, it warned that mobile service providers may fall foul of the same organised criminals who targeted traditional online providers of such content.

"These sites are often targets for DoS (Denial of Service) extortion attacks such as, 'Transfer $5,000 into this Swiss bank account and we will stop bombarding your site'," the report stated.

Gambling and pornography sites are often small, independent business which don't have the resources to cope with the levels of downtime these criminals threaten them with. For this reason these kinds of providers often pay up, according to Gartner.

"We recommend that mobile carriers prepare for DoS attacks, like SMS storms, against these kind of sites," the report states.

Last year, Betfair, along with several other online betting companies, was targeted by cybercriminals threatening DDoS attacks unless a ransom was paid.

Denial of service attacks work by inundating a site with traffic until the Web server can no longer cope and the site goes offline. In an SMS storm, mobile phone networks would theoretically be swamped by text messages sent to mobile phones from a broadband-connected PC. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University warned earlier this month that an SMS storm could seriously affect network coverage if it bombarded mobile phones in a single cell.

Security experts, though, are sceptical. Speaking at the Virus Bulletin conference in Dublin, Graham Cluley of Sophos questioned whether malicious hackers would be able to target mobile phones in the same network cell.

Gartner also claimed that regulatory and legal restrictions will have to be overcome before "culturally sensitive" services can be offered.

"Providing gambling and pornographic content for mobile phones is a sensitive issue," the report states. "Even though such services provide the potential for lucrative revenue streams… potential providers need to understand the laws and regulations governing such services."

For example, US regulators may force any mobile phone with the capability to access adult material to be equipped with technology that allows parents or guardians to block access.

ZDNet UK's Tom Espiner contributed to this report.