Archive for October, 2010

Scary Smart Phone Stories! (Halloween)

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

It’s Halloween time, when people tell each other frightening stories and urban myths. Some like to party and dress up, though I suspect Halloween may be just a thinly veiled excuse for some people! I personally like to raid my child’s “Haul” as she calls it when she’s not looking. After all, that’s a lot of candy!

I have some scary stories to share with you, stories about Smart Phones (or App Phones, as some call them) security issues.

Unfortunately, unlike the Halloween stories that we grew up with and can’t really hurt us, this information is real, and some of it scares me and other people who have come to understand the issues involved. I’d like to take a look at three popular smart phone platforms:

  • iPhone
  • Blackberry
  • Android

Let’s see if we can’t “scare up” some information on each platform and find the most secure, or at least the most vulnerable to malware, viruses, corruption, etc. I know that this information will probably not cause you to buy a particular handset, or steer away from another, but to quote Sy Syms (clothing store magnate supreme): “An educated consumer is our best customer”.

First the iPhone: Good news! Unless you have jail broken your phone, you should be relatively secure. If you havejail broken it, there are a number of good freeware programs that can help protect you from malware apps. Now the Meh.. news: Oneof the primary reasons that the iPhone remains pretty secure is that Steve Jobs has every app in the app store carefully certified as safe. Of course, there is also a fair amount of censorship going on there, but that’s a story for another day for another day. Bad news: Poor design can really bite you in the ass, as shown in an article published by VentureBeat technology blog in the New York Times on 10-26-10. Apparently, a screen locked phone can be made to bring up the phone app, which can then be used to make calls, VIEW YOUR CONTACT LIST WITH ATTACHED NOTES and browse your call history. Of course, Apple promises to fix this soonest!

Black berry: Good News! Some of the blackberry’s communications are so secure that some countries have considered banning then nationally. This is also why the US Government loves these thing. Meh…news: There are companies (Symantec for one and Panda for another) that offer mobile security suites for these devices. I’m guessing some stuff happened (stuff?) and this software is filling a need. Bad news: With out a tightly controlled app store, there are plenty of apps out there that are border line malicious. If the OS is corrupted somehow (unlikely), rebooting the device will restore it though.

Android: Good news! Hard to tell yet. Meh…news: Same deal. Bad news: Insufficient data. My personal guess is that this platform (open source, freeware etc..) will become a lightning rod for malware, viruses and Trojan attacks. I can just picture the proud teenager bragging to his/her friends that their Android Botnet has over 50,000 zombies.

Of course, the most frightening thing of all is not poor design, it’s not lack of security software, it’s not- well you get the point. The fact remains that even the most secure device in the wrong hands can still lead to heartache. All these phones can connect to the world wide web, where a host of evil phishing and scam sites await you around the next dark corner! The human mind does not need electronic devices to perform damaging acts. And boy, are we humans gullible!

More scary news: Gadgets Bring New Opportunities for Hackers, NY Times Online 12/26/10

Yet another prediction of doom: Security To Ward Off Crimes On Phones, NY Times 02/23/2011.