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How secure are mobile networks?

July 18, 2011

PETALING JAYA: If you are surfing over mobile broadband, such as 3G or WiFi, always make sure you have your security settings at the highest levels. 

Internet platform service provider Akamai Technologies Inc has reported an increasing amount of cyberattacks carried out over mobile networks. 

"When an attack is made over a mobile network, there is no clean attribution as to where the attack is coming from," said Andy Ellis, Akamai's chief security officer. Ellis was briefing the press on the findings of Akamai's study on the state of the Internet in Asia-Pacific. 

The study covers topics such as network security, data consumption, and the average Internet speed in the region. 

Ellis said the increase in these cyberattacks are due to the growing adoption of broadband and mobile devices in this part of the world. And because of the blitzkrieg increase, many users are not equipped or may be lax with the security of their devices and networks. 

"Some victims were not used to being online and didn't have good security habits," he said. "Sometimes, they don't even notice that their system has been compromised." 

Also, it's more difficult to track down an attacker who is using mobile broadband than one who is on a permanent connection. 

"You will see that the attack is originating from an IP (Internet Protocol) address that is registered to a hotspot, or some mobile device like an iPhone," Ellis explained. "Then, you have to figure out which person in that hotspot had made the attack." 

From here 

According to the Akamai report, 5.7% of the cyberattack traffic in the world that were made via mobile networks, originated from Malaysia. This was measured during the last quarter of 2010. 

Ellis declined to provide details. However, local security experts who spoke to Bytz on condition of anonymity, said that this could be due to hackers using those networks in Malaysia as a conduit for their attacks. The attacks on mobile devices are also on the rise, according to security services provider Symantec Corp. 

David Hall, regional consumer product marketing manager for Symantec Asia Pacific, told Bytz in an e-mail interview that cybercriminals are taking notice of the proliferation of mobile devices. 

"We find that new mobile-operating-system vulnerabilities are up by about 42%; from 115 in 2009 to 163 in 2010," he said. 

According to him, cyberattackers are leveraging on such flaws to infect thousands of devices, making it difficult for businesses and other organisations to adequately manage such risks. 

"More than 45% of the organisations we spoke to, said that security concerns are one of the biggest obstacles to their using smart devices," Hall said. 

He said that mobile threats have been very limited in the number of devices they have affected until now, but if the necessary steps are not taken to manage these risks, the impact is likely to increase. 


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