MIAMI – More than a third of all Google Android applications contain some form of malware, according to tests conducted by BT. A security expert for the U.K. telecom service provider said it expects to test apps for other mobile operating systems and find similar results.
“We analyzed more than 1,000 Android applications and found a third compromised with some form of active or dormant malware,” said Jill Knesek, head of the global security practice at BT. “Almost every device is compromised with some kind of malware, although often it’s not clear if that code is active or what it is doing,” she said in a panel discussion at the NetEvents Americas conference here.
Wayne Rash, a technology journalist moderating the panel, said he was reviewing a Samsung Galaxy S3 handset and found malware in an Android applications provided by Google. “This is a device considered by some people to be the best smartphone on the market right now,” Rash said.
“There’s plenty of anti-malware software available for Android and other mobile operating systems, but companies don’t often insist on using it,” Rash added.
Malicious code is just one example of the many security vulnerabilities in mobile systems. GPS devices can also be hacked, said Knesek.
“It’s going to take one young woman to be stalked, raped and killed before people realize the need security on GPS,” said Knesek a former cybersecurity expert for the U.S. FBI who worked on the Kevin Mitnick case.
Indeed, a U.S. researcher testified before Congress last week about the security holes in civilian GPS. At least a dozen presentations at this week’s Black Hat conference talked about vulnerabilities in mobile systems.
Even security technologies working their way out of the lab, such as biometrics, have their vulnerabilities. “I think hackers will steal biometrics with man in the middle hacks--handsets need to be encrypted end-to-end as the Backberry does,” she said.
The good news is thanks to the latest deep-packet inspection (DPI) chips, a new wave application-aware firewalls is emerging from companies including Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks and Palo Alto Networks. The chips can detect and block individual applications, said Jurrie van den Breekel, a director of marketing for test specialist Spirent Communications (Calabasas, Calif.).
“We see this as a very big market, and we get a lot of demand for testing the technologies,: said van den Breekel, speaking on the panel. “You will be able to select what kind of app you allow--you can block DropBox and Skype, for example, to prevent corporate data from winding up on those services.
One Latin America service provider already uses DPI to create separate mobile data packages for email and social networking apps such as Facebook and Twitter, said van den Breekel.
“Service providers will have the option to allow access to only certain apps—they will offer one thing and block the rest,” he said. “We are just at the very start of this trend,” he added.