Mobile devices achieved ever deeper market penetration in 2009, with the spectacular growth in the user base of Apple's iPhone fueling a massive surge in more advanced and sophisticated devices from many vendors. Even without truly common or widespread malicious attacks, mobile device users are still vulnerable to social engineering attacks phishing their sensitive data.
The leading mobile device brands at the moment remain the BlackBerry and the iPhone, and their user base remains largely divided between corporate and home users. The BlackBerry was designed with security much more at the fore and consequently remains the choice for most business purposes. Nevertheless, flaws have been found.
There is still a need for user education as some iPhone users and members of the Mac community believe Apple's built-in security to be impenetrable, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Standard iPhones are sold with a locked-down operating system, allowing only approved software to be installed.
However, not all users are content to limit themselves to the capabilities of these locked-down phones, and unlocking, known as "jailbreaking," has become a fairly common practice. The dangers of this were brought to the fore in November with the Ikee worm that spread in the wild.
Google's Android OS has taken a strong position as the alternative to the big two, lacking the business focus of the BlackBerry range but competing closely with the iPhone for the personal slice of the market. Early Android malware was already found in January 2010, and theoretical threats and threat vectors continue to be proposed and investigated.
In March, researchers tricked thousands of smartphone users into joining a demonstration botnet of iPhones and Android-based devices, while in the summer the potential for rootkits on Android phones was discussed in depth by security researchers.
The Android marketplace is not as closely monitored as Apple's and it adopts an "anything goes" philosophy. Combined with the steady growth in Android use as the sophistication of available devices catches up with the iPhone, this may make the platform more attractive to cybercriminals in the future.
Windows 7 phones
Microsoft has not given up the battle with Apple and Linux for control of the smartphone market. In the spring of 2010, a new generation of Windows smartphones began to appear. The full release of Windows Phone 7 is expected in the fall. Whether the security problems of full-blown Windows platforms will be sufficiently addressed on the new platform remains to be seen.