Smartphone Apps: The Next Critical Security Threat?

Last Updated Jun 7, 2010 9:17 AM EDT

Just as smartphones like the iPhone and Android have created a whole new model for accessing online information -- an ecosystem of tailored apps replacing the blunt instrument of Web browsing, some security experts are warning that these apps could pose serious threats to corporate security, personal safety, and privacy. Is your cell phone a serious risk?


Yes, if you're not careful. At least, that's the conclusion of the Wall Street Journal in Dark Side Arises for Phone Apps. The WSJ reminds us that back in December, a developer had published some unauthorized mobile banking apps to the Android store. These apps claimed to offer access to numerous banks, but weren't authorized by the banks themselves. Google soon removed the apps citing trademark violations.

Those apps were not malicious -- at least in their original form -- but an update could have easily turned them into phishing apps which collected usernames and logins. And therein lies the danger -- people are more trusting of apps than Web pages, and that means it's possible for developers to create tools which breach personal and corporate security with relative ease.

iPhones are, by the approval-based nature of the Apple app store, more secure than Google's Open Source Android store. But even that's no guarantee. What can you do to protect yourself? Be vigilant, of course -- consider the source of any smartphone app you install, and be doubly cautious before using an app that purports to be a front end to financial or corporate resources.