Spam and malicious text messages pose a far bigger threat to consumers and businesses than email spam, according to security firm Cloudmark.
The firm, which runs the global spam reporting service on behalf of the GSMA, revealed earlier this year that there are six million spam texts sent everyday in the UK. It has now warned that the problem is getting worse due to a number of converging factors driving crooks to mobile spam.
The firm’s chief technology officer, Neil Cook, told V3 that the fact people are far more likely to open text messages than emails poses a major problem. “The open rate for an SMS is 80-90 percent within a minute, whereas email you may not look at all day,” he noted.
"As a result it is far easier to get someone to open a message telling them to ring a number or visit a website than on email."
He also said people are still not as wary about messages they receive on phones as they are via email.
“The phone is a more trusted medium, which is why we see more fraud as opposed to bulk spam selling, because fraud is much more easily monetised by getting people to ring a premium number from the text, or visit a malicious website," he said.
"There’s not so much screen real estate so it’s harder to tell what is a phishing message or something genuine."
Cook also pointed out that the high-end capabilities of smartphones and new, IP-based 4G networks, are ideal for criminals to compromise, something that is posing fresh concerns for operators.
“As more people move from fixed to mobile broadband and smartphones then problems from botnets and viruses are moving from PCs to smartphones so there is the potential for real issues here,” he said.
“This could also have a big impact on operators as it will chug the network. For fixed line this doesn’t affect people so much, but with mobile over the air resources are very precious, so if network is being chewed up with spam sending messages, that’s a concern.”
On top of this Cook cited the BYOD trend as a major risk to enterprises that fraudulent texts pose, noting that it only takes one handset to be infected to put an entire organisation at risk.
“BYOD is a big issue. One of the new areas we're getting into is helping protect phones from going to malicious websites or calling malicious phone numbers, which is an increasing concern as that’s a route to infect your phone or steal company secrets,” he said. “You only have to have one person infected with a phone running an application key logger or sending company data.”
The rising concerns over spam and malicious text messages come amid reviews by the government to tackle this menace, and a stronger stance by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to hurt the firms behind messages, with several notable fines levied by the watchdog.
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