Less than 30 per cent of smartphone users have AV installed

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Apr 3, 2008

Experts disagree on the need for specialist mobile AV protection.

In a poll only 19% of visitors to the VB website said they had anti-malware protection on their mobile phone. While 33% of respondents said they did not have a smartphone (and thus would not be susceptible to malware threats), more than 70% of smartphone users said they had no anti-malware protection on their phones.

The current malware threat to mobile devices is considered to be low, with 10,000 times more Windows threats than those affecting Symbian, the most widely used operating system on the smart mobile device market. However, with the number of smartphone users growing, the number of threats is also likely to increase - so would it not be best to be protected before the threat becomes serious?

We asked some anti-virus experts whether smartphone users that do not use mobile anti-virus are taking a risk.

Dirk Hochstrate is Managing Director of anti-virus vendor G DATA. He sees potential for mobile malware to develop, saying: "We see a lot of technical possibilities, and how mobile malware might become a big problem in the future."

However, Hochstrate does not currently advocate the selling of dedicated mobile AV solutions. "For two or three rain drops I won't open an umbrella," he says. Moreover, he believes that some vendors exaggerate the current state of the threat in order to sell their products and worries that this will damage the reputation of the industry: "To some it might seem as if the security industry is more interested in making money than in providing real protection - and that's not good for the image of the industry."

On the other side of story, Anton von Troyer is marketing manager of anti-malware vendor F-Secure, one of the first AV companies to have offered mobile anti-virus software. He acknowledges that the mobile threat level is currently low and even goes so far as to say that, for 'regular' mobile users, there is not the same pressing need to have AV protection on their mobile devices as there is on their PCs.

However, he does think that any user or company that relies heavily on their mobile device is better off using specialist mobile anti-virus protection. "By using common sense you can reduce the risk of getting infected by a mobile virus significantly. But the risk remains, especially with the rising spyware problem. Our company's slogan is 'be sure' - and we believe that it is safest to have a mobile anti-malware application on the device to 'be sure'."

Slides from anti-virus researcher Dr Vesselin Bontchev's VB2007 presentation on the virusability of modern mobile environments can be found here.

Posted on 3 April 2008 by Virus Bulletin

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