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Mobile Security and You
By Seow Tein Hee - on 13 Aug 2010, 3:20pm

Personally, I've never been a big fan of anti-virus softwares. Not that I'm advocating that you shouldn't be prepared and take preventive measures to keep your systems free from malware and trojan. It's a matter of being aware of the things you do on your PC, and the internet.

But times have definitely changed. Over the years, there's a growing group of mobile users turning to their smartphones for the same functions as one would perform on the PC. This includes accessing your emails or websites on-the-go via your mobile phones, and of late, downloading apps onto your mobile devices.

Google's Android platform got its first real taste of security problems via a malicious app.

On the mobile front, there are various recent examples that should sound off warning alarms. Google's Android platform got its first strike with an app that innocently disguises itself as a mobile player app. Its real motive is to gain access to the device's text messaging features. Once that's achieved, your Android phone will be sending text messages to premium-rate numbers, which will contribute to your next bill shock.

Fortunately, this malware will only affect devices under the Russian cell network, and it isn't available on the Android Market. Infection is only possible if you were to grant it installation access. Nonetheless, there is an underlying threat that could spill over on a global scale, and this is where security firms such as Symantec steps in with apps such as Norton Smartphone Security for Android.

In a way, Android's openness and its capacity to allow its users to root and gain unhindered access to its features is a considerably sharp double-edged sword. The onus is upon the user to be wary of dubious apps, and steer clear of them. In stark contrast, Apple's tight grip on its App Store has its advantages, protecting its users and their data from being compromised.

But that's not to say that Apple is absolutely safe from malicious attacks. The recent iOS 4 was susceptible to having its OS being injected with codes via a PDF font which became the basis for the iPhone 4 Jailbreakme program (speaking of which, jailbreaking has been legalized in the States.) For now, Apple has closed the doors to the PDF exploit with a recent patch to iOS 4.

Similar to Android, jailbreaking is also a grey area, which really depends on the users' judgment when it comes to installing dubious apps onto their devices. This is especially important since the exploit could be a precursor for hackers to inject malicious codes into your iOS 4. Once again, it boils down to user awareness.

Ultimately, if you aren't very experimental with your mobile device, and you do your due diligence with your security updates from the official sources, you shouldn't have much to worry about. However, if you have a tendency to geek out and conduct a few adventures, we have this saying to share, "Look before you leap". It's always wise to be slightly (yes, slightly, don't be too excessive) paranoid with your apps download.

PS: It seems like Apple's fix to the PDF exploit wasn't extended to its previous versions. In an ironic twist, the very same jailbreaking community has moved in with a patch, which requires you to jailbreak your iPhone or iPod devices on iOS 3.

Seow Tein Hee

Seow Tein Hee / Former Associate Editor

Attuned to the latest mobile technology and news, Tein Hee is always on the lookout for innovation and creativity in the mobile industry.