If you left your cell phone in the back of a cab in New York City, you're in good company; by some estimates that unfortunate circumstance occurs 10,000 times a year in the Big Apple. Unfortunately, the number of phones recovered is a fraction of that amount. A new tool from Kaspersky Lab might help you better the odds in your favor.
Like other security vendors, Kaspersky has existing solutions that focus on antivirus and anti-spam for mobile devices. But Jeff Aliber, senior director of Americas Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab, told us that in reality, the market "doesn't view anti-malware as something that's a major requirement."
Instead, users are putting more personal and corporate information (such as sales forecasts, CRM data and meeting schedules) on their phones, making them valuable -- and hard to replace -- tools. "There is a huge pain around losing phones, having phones stolen, particularly smartphones," Aliber said. "We found that there's this market that's not just underserved, but not serviced at all," unless you're in a large enterprise using a smartphone in conjunction with a Microsoft Exchange or BlackBerry server. In those environments, an administrator can remotely send out an SMS text message to block or wipe data from a phone. But for consumers and SMBs, these options aren't available.
In addition to standard security offerings such as anti-spam and antivirus products, Kaspersky Mobile Security looks to help secure a phone if it goes missing. "If you lose your phone, you will have the ability to send an SMS message that either temporarily locks the device until it is recovered, or wipes it clean of any stored data," Aliber told us. "This eliminates the risk of personal information falling into the wrong hands if it has been stolen (or simply left in the backseat of a cab)."
There's an anti-theft component to the solution as well, Aliber said. "If it's a GSM phone and they switch the SIM card, not only will it block data on the phone, but it's also going to call back on a preset number you give it and tell you the new number, which potentially gives you recourse to get it back," he explained. "At a minimum, if it was stolen, you can go to the network carrier to say there's someone using a stolen phone, here's the new phone number, please take it off the network, and they would have the ability to do that."
Future Threats to Smartphones
While for the moment the amount of malware and spam targeting cell phones is still negligible, both are expected to be on the increase. Aliber said that the recent FCC auction of wireless spectrum will be an incentive for companies to emulate Asian and European handheld devices that do "more than what goes on in the States," with third-party applications that "look like a Web 2.0 mashup environment." The result, he said, "is that it's going to be a whole lot less secure."
He mentioned recent attacks on smartphones in China, such as the InfoJack Trojan horse that infected mobile devices running Windows CE, which he called a "very sophisticated test, one that has people concerned." So Mobile Security also provides both anti-malware technology and a built-in firewall. The program is under 500KB, so it has "absolutely no impact on system environment," he said.
For now the tool runs on Windows Mobile 5.0 and 6.0, and Symbian OS Versions 9.1 and 9.2. Aliber said the company is looking at other platforms, including RIM, iPhone, Android, and LiMo. The annual subscription for consumers is $29.95, with a corporate price still to be determined.