All Fear The Mobile Phone Botnets… That Don't Actually Exist

from the this-again? dept

For many years, we saw stories, usually pushed by security software companies, about how mobile phone viruses were some huge threat that had to be dealt with quickly before they spread around the world. Of course, that hasn’t actually happened — and there are some good reasons why it’s unlikely. In fact, it seemed like such stories had been decreasing lately, perhaps in part due to some security firms scolding competitors for mobile virus FUD.

So, we were a bit surprised to see yet another story on the subject, this time suggesting that we’re on the verge of (I’m not making this up) a “Cell Phone Zombie Uprising.” Some researchers are predicting that mobile phones would be perfect for botnets, though, again it’s not clear how that would actually happen, given the limitations of phones. While it is true that phones have become more powerful (and open) over the past few years, there still hasn’t been much evidence that viruses and such are a real threat. Most phones are designed well enough to not make it easy for apps to just install themselves — so consider us skeptical until there’s real evidence of a mobile botnet rising.

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Comments on “All Fear The Mobile Phone Botnets… That Don't Actually Exist”

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TX CHL Instructor (profile) says:


The new Google phone isn’t going to be all that limited. In fact, a “jailbroken” iPhone will do a pretty good job of running a wide variety of *nix applications.

In fact, either of those phones has substantially more computing power than the desktop PC of 15 years ago. It’s only a matter of time before somebody unleashes all that power via some malware. Nothing deters violent crime as effectively as the possibility of getting shot by your intended victim. Nothing.

jED says:

Re: Android

You have not factored in a number of issues. Have you ever seen a zombie botnet consisting of security conscious Linux distros? Not to mention how locked down the Android operating system is compared to normal Linux distros.

If an open source OS become the general standard for mobile phones the longer it exists the smaller this threat becomes. It’s the beauty of open source.

Xanius says:


The problem with them trying to convince people that their phone will become a zombie is the same problem with cell phone anti-virus software. Any malware on the phone is going to suck up my battery forcing me to take a look through it or at least contact my carrier for support. 90% of the carrier solutions involve a hard reset of the phone, boom virus gone because you can’t write to rom while in the OS and my battery life is better.

Joseph Durnal (user link) says:

It is something to think about

Just like windows & word. The more features they put into anything, the more exploitable it will become. Remember when Microsoft Word Macros could start running Visual Basic code, it opened up tons of awesome features, but turned into a malware writer’s dream. Even after that, Microsoft decided to tie the browser to the OS, opening up a whole new can of worms. There will be a big mobile phone worm, it is only a matter of time, but it doesn’t bother me much, I actually prefer a simple phone for making phone calls, not a development platform for any type of application someone can dream up!

Allen (profile) says:

It's about critical mass

So far WinTel’s overwhelming user base has negated the need for non-WinTel viruses and botnets.

So far we do not have a mobile device (or family of devices) that is/are widely enough deployed to make it worth the effort. Sure mobile devices are getting more powerful. No doubt they could find exploitable security holes if they wanted to. Certainly they could try “CLICK NOW HERE FOR VIRUS REMOVE” social exploits. But why bother when there are more than enough WinTel marks out there to exploit?

That’s not to say that the situation wont ever change. But it’s too early to be doing the chicken little act just yet.

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