Mobile Commerce: Hackers' Next Target?

Tower Group says financial services industry is overlooking the prospect of mobile malware



The financial services industry is building a raft of mobile services that haven't been sufficiently protected against security threats, TowerGroup said yesterday.

In a report entitled "Fraud, Virus and ID Theft: Mobile Malware Stands to Create a New Beginning," TowerGroup suggests that 2007 will be the year that new banking and payment initiatives in the mobile channel will be increasingly targeted by those engaged in fraud and identity theft. These targets will include smartphones and PDAs, as well as transactions in which a mobile device acts as a credit or debit card.

"TowerGroup believes that current mobile commerce initiatives emerging from the financial services industry lack a reasonable and justifiable focus on mobile malware," the report says.

The success of new mobile transaction services, such as wireless banking, will depend on financial institutions' ability to close the open holes, according Bob Egan, chief analyst at TowerGroup, who authored the report. "Over 200 mobile viruses have already been identified, a number that is doubling nearly every six months."

TowerGroup estimates that 80 percent of U.S. financial institutions already have employees using smartphones, including the BlackBerry, in a mix of professional and personal capacities. The likelihood of attacks on and theft from these devices is growing exponentially, the research firm says.

The report recommends that financial institutions and other corporations establish clear policies on what types of mobile downloads are safe and allowable. Companies should also restrict the use of personal mobile phones for corporate activities, as they generally do with PCs, TowerGroup says.

Companies that offer mobile commerce should also put a higher priority on deploying security technology, both in their own networks and at the wireless carrier level, the report advises.

"IT managers must examine extending their existing malware and virus security initiatives to include mobile phones," Egan warns. "We're currently in the lull before the true storm."

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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