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Mobile Phones Next Big Target For Hackers

There's a downside coming for users of do-it-all mobile phones, according to tech security analyst firm IDC.

Though increasingly popular and mainstream, multi-function iPhones, Palm Treos and Blackberrys are expected to become ever more ripe targets for hackers, scammers and virus coders, who until now have seen personal computers and networks as the most enticing targets.

Considering how much personal and sensitive information (addresses, e-mails, documents, passwords, pictures) people keep on their smartphones, this growing threat is a major concern.

The change is coming with the open access environment of applications that are being written for these smartphones, say experts from the top security labs. While it's a boon for the folks who write programs, and the consumers who plan to use them, the open access also means it'll be easier for hackers to make malicious software available. (Programs for smartphones can be written by pretty much anyone.)

Trend Micro and Symantec, as well as other security firms, are already seeing a growing business supplying protection to businesses and individuals who use smartphones. IDC says businesses and consumers will spend $958 million by 2011, up from $214 million in 2006, on security. For an individual user, $30 buys a year's worth of protection.

These firms consider smartphones the most vulnerable link the complex chain of communications devices on the market today.

The attacks have already begun. Users of Windows Mobile smartphones have already found themselves subject to the InfoJack program, which knocked out their phones' security settings and connected the devices to a server in China.

So how do you protect yourself? Well, for starters, don't download anything that doesn't look familiar (like something in an e-mail that comes from someone you don't know). Also, consider installing an anti-virus protection program for mobile phones. Just take care to use the same precautions you use on your computer to avoid viruses and you should be okay.

Here's the good news for people who don't own smartphones (essentially, most clamshell and flat-phones that don't run Windows Mobile, Symbian OS, or Palm OS (or iPhones): You don't have to worry, since non-smart-phones don't allow for independent third-party applications to be installed, making them virtually virus-proof (and, also, of course, more boring, since they only allow apps from your mobile carrier to be installed). [Source: USA Today]

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