Don’t Let Smartphone Networks Repeat History

If we do not want history to repeat itself, it is necessary to take preventative measures to protect the integrity of smartphones. As of December 2009, 42% of US consumers owned smartphones and the figure is still climbing. Before significant numbers of smartphones become infected, smartphone network operators should deploy technology to make it very difficult for infected devices to be usable by malicious actors. Failure to do so would lead to a repetition of history: having the smartphone network operators needing to be reactionary to threats; bandwidth saturation; and other problems.

Malicious actors have only minimally targeted the mobile arena to date because right now there is plenty of money to be made in other places. Soon enough the majority of people will use smartphones to do their banking, to cruise social networks, etc., and the smartphone will be the new haven for malicious actors. These criminals will follow where the money is going. It only seems reasonable that a communal effort be put in place to protect this new neighborhood from cybercrime. You could even say this is the perfect opportunity for us to do so, before there is a problem, and before everyone transfers to smartphones. This is the chance to address malicious activity on the Internet and beat the criminals to the bank.

This is a call to action to all those with positions of power at phone carriers, manufacturers, and network providers to incorporate preventative mechanisms now. Consider for example if 90% of email originating from smartphones was SPAM, which is about the level now observed for conventional Internet devices today. The networks would collapse under the pressure. Technologies exist today that if deployed now can largely eliminate this type of problem, and more. The costs for doing so today are small in contrast to waiting and being reactionary.

Certain mobile carriers are starting to consider various methods to counteract malware, but are unclear how adequate they actually are. The device designers, software architects and network providers ideally will collaborate on best practices now, so that architectures have at their core the necessary mechanisms to combat maliciousness. It is a mistake to do this as an afterthought. Instead of patching holes, build a brick house that can’t be penetrated from the beginning.

- Marc

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