Mobile Device's Enter the New 'Wild West' Phase

Tony Bradley July 3, 2012
Mobile Device's Enter the New 'Wild West' Phase
Mobile devices have gigabytes of data and access to sensitive information just like PCs, but most people are not properly securing them.

It all starts with a new frontier. Then, the pioneers come to explore and exploit the frontier, followed by settlers moving in to claim the frontier as their own. That brings on the "wild west"--a period with few rules, and rampant lawlessness.

Mobile devices have reached the "wild west" stage. The frontier is there, and the developers and engineers--the pioneers--have stepped in to push the envelope and explore the new possibilities available with mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets have caught on with mainstream users--the settlers--but at this point there are few established or accepted rules. That creates a scenario ripe for exploitation by lawless hackers and malicious developers.

Set aside the melodramatic analogy for a minute. The underlying point is that average people are embracing mobile technology, but they're ill-equipped for the potential risks. People who never figured out how to set the clock to get the VCR to stop flashing "12:00"--people like my grandmother--are storing sensitive personal information on smartphones and tablets without regard for securing or protecting it.

Attackers go where the potential victims are, and mobile devices are a fertile new hunting ground. Last year was a record-breaking year with more than 70 million new malware threats discovered, and 2012 is on pace to beat it. Mobile devices represent a lucrative, relatively unprotected market that attackers simply can't ignore. 

People generally understand online threats, and most people respect the established security practices for PCs. They know they're supposed to lock down their PC with a strong password. They know they need to have antimalware protection (and keep it up to date). They know they shouldn't open suspicious file attachments, or click on links from strangers.