Mobile Hacking Exposed: Security Secrets & Solutions

August 17, 2017 White Papers

There is a lot of uncertainty with regards to viruses on mobile phones and tablets. Malicious software for mobile devices expands in different forms from stealing your credit card details to extorting money for not publishing your photos or location history to public sources. In line with that, numerous famous antivirus companies release multiple products for mobile security. Let’s try to get at the heart of the matter and see the real state of things.

What do the mobile OS manufacturers say?

According to the Sydney Morning Herald post from November 2011, “The open source programs manager at Google, Chris DiBona, said anti-virus companies were playing on consumers’ fears “to try to sell you protection software” and claimed that the supposed mobile phone malware problem was a bogus scare campaign created by the security software companies.”

In 2014, Adrian Ludwig, the lead engineer for Android security at Google repeated the same idea. “I don’t think 99 per cent plus users even get a benefit from [anti-virus]. There’s certainly no
reason that they need to install something in addition to [the security we provide]. If I were to be in a line of work where I need that type of protection it would make sense for me to do that. [But] do I think the average user on Android needs to install [anti-virus]? Absolutely not.”

We didn’t find similar claims from Apple which could be considered as their official position, but in March 2015 they simply expelled antivirus software from the iOS AppStore (see the reports from 9to5Mac and The Register) which proves their confidence in the strength of iOS and the uselessness of mobile antivirus software.

How viruses can penetrate my phone?

It’s logical that every manufacturer praises the products they sell but we can’t always take their word for it. Let’s try to understand how viruses can trick mobile OS’s numerous security barriers and get inside.

The first thing that we need to clarify is what viruses are. It is “A computer virus is a type of malicious software program (“malware”) that, when executed, replicates itself by modifying other computer programs and inserting its own code.” From this definition we can learn two things:

  1. Usually we call all of them “viruses” but viruses are just a kind of malware;
  2. Viruses can replicate themselves while other malware cannot.

It means that if a mobile phone was infected by a virus, then it can infect another phone all by itself, while any other kinds of malware need the user’s interaction to get inside the device. Let’s think about the ways which malicious code can spread.

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