Mobile adware is not the same as PC, has access to personal information: Bitdefender

Security vendor finds that the integrated nature of smartphones makes them more vulnerable if attacked

Adware on mobile means more than just showing banners, according to Bitdefender senior e-threat analyst, Bogdan Botezatu.

People may have the image of “adware” entailing some onscreen banners or pop ups during the use of software, though Botezatu said adware in PC is not the same as on mobile devices.

“Desktop applications are isolated and the web browser does not know what contacts you have in your email client,” he said.

“However, Android is highly integrated, so when you get adware it is basically asking for permission to do anything on your device.”

On desktop PCs, Botezatu said the browser can not get access to installed applications.

“It is basically sandboxed and can not see behind the browser,” he said.

While a browser may look at the sites a user may have visited and store them in cookies, it will not have access to mail client such as Outlook and start digging through the content there.

“On mobile, if an application has the right permission it can jump into your contacts, email accounts, and see what other applications are installed,” Botezatu said.

As for why this awareness gap exists, Botezatu said it is a matter of education.

“There has been some bad marketing when it comes to adware,” he said.

To help users be on top of this issue, Bitdefender will soon be releasing Clueful for Android, which is a port of the same app that was released for iOS last year.

Router risk

Beyond adware, the other area of concern for Botezatu is unsecured embedded devices.

“A couple of guys, who decided to remain anonymous, recently did a test where they probed the Internet,” he said.

“It’s the last test they could do, because probably next year we’re going to have IPv6 and things will change.”

What the hackers did was created a piece of software which probes IPs, looked for responses, and if those devices responded, they would try to log in with false credentials.

In the process, Botezatu said they managed to compromise “a couple of million” of routers, security appliances, Smart TVs, and other devices.

“This is kind of worrying, because there is nothing end users can do to defend themselves,” he said.

Bitdefender carried its own tests to confirm those findings, where Botezatu scanned the IP range of his service provider and found 46 per cent of devices were available from the Internet.

“They probably also had simple user names and passwords,” he said.

To Botezatu, this means that people do not pay enough attention to securing their network.

“This is worrying because it is a market that is currently not occupied by any antivirus product,” he said.

“After all, you can’t get antivirus security for routers.”

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.

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