Cell Phone Security Threats Rise Sharply: McAfee

Reuters

Cellphone security threats rose sharply last year as a proliferation of Internet-enabled mobile devices like smartphones and tablets provided new opportunities for cybercriminals, security software maker McAfee (NYSE:MFE) said.

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In its fourth-quarter threat report, released on Tuesday, McAfee said the number of pieces of new cellphone malware it found in 2010 rose 46% over 2009's level.

"As more users access the Internet from an ever-expanding pool of devices -- computer, tablet, smartphone or Internet TV -- Web-based threats will continue to grow in size and sophistication," it said.

McAfee, which is being bought by Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) for $7.68 billion, said it expected PDF and Flash maker Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) to remain a favorite of cybercriminals this year, after it overtook Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) in popularity as a target in 2010.

It attributed the trend to Adobe's greater popularity in mobile devices and non-Microsoft environments, coupled with the ongoing widespread use of PDF document files to convey malware.

McAfee said Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, which last quarter overtook Nokia (NOK1V.HE) as the maker of the world's most popular smartphone software, had been targeted by a trojan horse that buried itself in Android applications and games.

And politically motivated hacking was on the rise, it said, with the highest-profile protagonist being the "Anonymous" activist group that targeted the Web sites of organizations it perceived to be hostile to controversial site WikiLeaks.

Confirming a trend that other software security companies have reported, McAfee said spam levels had decreased sharply, especially in the second half of the fourth quarter, with 62% less by the end of the year than at the beginning.

The company said, however, that spam's hitting its lowest level for years simply represented a transition period with several botnets -- collections of computers harnessed to act in concert -- going dormant at an usually busy time of year.

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