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Mobile Malware Driven by Porn

Mobile users are using their smartphones and tablets for more than 'legitimate' work purposes. Who knew?

An increasing volume of online content consumption is shifting to mobile devices, especially tablets.

That increasing content consumption is also not all about improved productivity, as bad habits from the desktop world are carrying over to mobile. Among those bad habits is the propensity for users to visit pornographic websites. Aside from any moral or ethical issues, it turns out that pornographic websites aren't particularly good for mobile device security, according to a new study from network security vendor Blue Coat Systems.

"For reasons that are not apparently obvious, pornography is a particularly high risk category for mobile web threats," Chris Pace, product and solutions specialist at Blue Coat, told Datamation. " It may be that individuals' slightly more personal relationship with their mobile device means that perhaps they are more comfortable doing that kind of browsing from mobile devices than if they were connected to a desktop machine in the office or at home."

According to Blue Coat, just over 20 percent of the time that a mobile user visits a pornographic website, they are finding some form of malicious threat. The high-risk of mobile threats from pornographic website is three times higher than any other category of online content. Though Blue Coat found that pornographic websites are very risky, actual visits to those websites as a percentage of total online content consumed is just under one percent.

The Blue Coat data comes by way of the company's own intelligence gathering capabilities. Blue Coat has a cloud-based service called WebPulse, which identifies and blocks malicious content.

As to why malware from pornographic websites is more successful than any other category, Pace speculates that it's all about targeting the lowest common denominator. In order for the mobile malware to be successful, a user needs to be convinced that they need to click on an item, which in turn can lead to a download or some form of infection.

Pace explained that in the mobile world, users are familiar with the idea that if they want something, they often need to download or install an app.

"If you use that technique to target the very basic animal instincts, is it more likely that someone will download that file?" Pace said. "It seems to me that if you're prompting someone to download something, they have to have a reason to want to download it."

Android vs IOS

The nature of the Apple AppStore makes it significantly less likely, according to Pace, that any Apple mobile device will be infected with mobile malware.

"It is possible for an IOS user to browser to an infected site, but what is less possible, unless the device has been jailbroken, is for an outright malicious app to be installed," Pace said. "We're not really seeing malware for IOS and we're not likely too."

In contrast, Blue Coat is seeing increasing volume of malware specifically targeting Android. The Blue Coat WebPulse service reported a 600 percent increase in the volume of Android malware than it was seeing in the July to September 2012 period over the same period in 2011.

Why Mobile is Less Secure

In the desktop world, users have additional screen real estate that can make a significant difference to helping users against threats. For example, with a desktop browser, users often look at the address bar to make sure they are on the right site and not on a fake or malicious site. Pace added that desktop users can also use a mouse to hover over a link on a given webpage to see what address it will lead too.

"A lot of the education that we've done as an industry to help users identify if something is suspicious or not is not in place with mobile devices," Pace said. "There is still work to be done to educate users that the same threats are present whether user mobile device or a regular laptop or desktop."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.




Tags: security, mobile, malware


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