April 17, 2006 12:01 PM PDT
What's the next security threat?
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While Windows PCs remain the prime target for attacks, prepare to see more activity targeted at the mobile phone. F-Secure says it has now detected 179 cell phone viruses and estimates that some tens of thousands of handsets are infected.
Nokia has reacted by launching handsets with antivirus protection built in, and the newly released version 9 of the Symbian operating system has improved security, so it may be possible to nip some mobile viruses in the bud.
Or maybe not. F-Secure recently detected the first malicious Java software on a cell phone, meaning it could affect most handsets, and not just the high-end models, Hypponen said. And in March, he spotted a Trojan horse that plants itself on the cell phone and calls a premium rate number in Russia, each time clocking up five euros ($6.04) for the criminal who sent it.
Even so, the rapidly growing world population of broadband users means that botnets will continue to be the main focus for Internet criminals. All of the people in the Rogues Gallery of the world's top 10 spammers, on the Spamhaus Project Web site, are constantly topping up their networks with new zombie machines owned by people with little concept of security. And they do not restrict themselves to mass e-mailing--their activities extend into child pornography, extortion and fraud.
And botnets open up another danger, according to Dave Rand, chief technologist for Internet content security at Trend Micro. Their combined computing power could be used to decrypt Internet traffic, he says. If that were to happen (and there is no sign of it yet), it could bring e-commerce to a grinding halt.
Ron Condon reported for Silicon.com from London.
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