Guest Post by Fergal Glynn.

It’s in the news more and more. The number of viruses, malware, and a number of other ‘virtual illnesses‘ affecting smartphones has already caused billions of dollars in damage. In fact, a recent study by Juniper Networks estimates malware attacks on Android have increased by 400%. But why the sudden interest? They’re a better target, and here’s why:

Smartphones hold more information

Today, phones are a portable hub for all the information in our lives, including business and personal. This means, with one hit, a hacker could potential gain all of your personal and financial information, in addition to gaining the information they need to penetrate a business infrastructure. With that, they simply need to set up a spear phishing attack, and the hackers can access full range of sites, accounts, and systems.

Free Internet is not so Free

Is your favorite free WiFi spot is really free? Or, is it a fake network set up by someone with less than honorable intentions? Because many smartphones automatically connect to open networks (and save them for future use!), it makes them a prime target. Once someone malicious has gained access to your smartphone, they can gather all of your account details, passwords, personal information, financial details, and other informational gems you send through your phone.

No Security Software

Just like a car thief looking for unlocked doors and keys in the ignition, hackers will prey on the easiest targets they can find. Most of the time, this means smartphones. And why not? They often connect to open WiFi networks and usually don’t have any sort of security software installed. Therefore, once attackers gain access, there’s nothing stopping them.

Users Aren’t Aware of the Risks

Because many people who own smartphones think they’re immune to attacks, hackers can ‘live’ in a phone for months or even years without being detected. Imagine the sheer amount of information you share during the year. With that kind of information, banks, business sites, email accounts, personal identities, and all sorts of networks would be at risk. To make matters worse, any attempts by the attackers to gain additional information would be even harder to detect because they would be better able to disguise their phishing attempts.

More Opportunities For Attacks

Smartphones use the Web, SMS, email, voice, apps, and many other methods to communicate with other people and devices. This leaves them wide open to a number of different attacks and gives a determined hacker more options than he’d have with a regular computer. In fact, experts believe it’s even possible for hackers to use the device’s microphone to record voice communications and scan them for calls containing useful information such as those made to a bank or credit card company.

Real Life Threats

Because of their portability, smartphones are much easier to steal than laptops or other communication devices. To make matters worse, many users don’t lock or secure their phones, and even fewer use location services. This means, once a thief gets his hands on a phone, they can access everything, and the user can’t even wipe the phone clean to minimize the damage.

The best way to protect against mobile attacks is to be aware and prepared. To start, install security software, use secure connections, invest in locate and remote wipe services, use strong passwords, and minimize the amount of information you store or use on your smartphone. After all, the more ‘doors’ you close to attackers, the less likely you are to become their victim.

Related read: Android Security Apps

This was a guest post by Fergal Glynn who is the Director of Product Marketing at Veracode, an award-winning application security company specializing in >vulnerability scanning tools and application risk assessment.

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Raju is the founder-editor of Technology Personalized. A proud geek and an Internet freak, who is also a social networking enthusiast. You can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter. Mail Raju PP. Follow rajupp