Remind everyone you know: malware kills computers, smartphones are computers

A ridiculously high percentage of smartphone users don't even know the could get a virus

By the end of next year five percent of all Android and iOs smartphones will be infected by trojans and malware, according to analysis by security vendor Trusteer.

The only thing that has to happen for infections to reach that level is that malware writers decide smartphone owners are numerous enough and use their phones for transactions valuable enough to be worth the effort to add support for Android and iOS into zero-day malware and exploit kits, according to Trusteer CEO Mickey Boodaei.

Half of all mobile phones in the U.S. are smartphones, and 38 percent of smartphone users have some kind of banking app on the phone that could be targeted by malware.

That's a large audience and a rich potential target, if malware writers can hit the banking connections specifically, rather than the endless streams of chat between users updating each other on their location or asking why someone else is already late.

Boodaei doesn't seem to think the potential infection rate or level of threat is surprising. Plenty of other people do, considering the anxious reactions to report after report in the past few months that more viruses, malware and exploits are surfacing that specifically target iPhones, iPads or Android devices.

It's time to make clear to anyone who carries a smartphone or tablet or laptop something most people who are even slightly geekish already consider too simplistic to have to say out loud:

Computers are vulnerable to viruses, trojans, malware and hacking.

Smartphones are computers.

Therefore, smartphones are vulnerable to malware and hacking.

If you or anyone you know has a smartphone, tablet, music player or other device running iOS, Android or other operating system that allows them to install software, that device and every other one they own can infected by malware and either ruined or made to give valuable personal information away to strangers.

It sounds stupid to have to say it explicitly, I know. But it wasn't long ago that even Apple found it necessary to remind customers that Apple products are, indeed, vulnerable to hacks and malware.

Without thinking about it too much, an astonishing number of Mac users just accepted the rumor that had been circulating among smugly like-minded people that Apple products were too secure to be infected by viruses or hacked directly.

Now that Macs are closer to 10 percent of new machines sold, the pool of victims is a lot bigger and so is the list of viruses designed for Macs.

Smartphones are no different, because they're not actually phones.

Smartphones are tiny computers that are also able to make calls across the same cellular-network data connections they use to download weather reports and compare Angry Bird scores.

Android is a bigger risk, according to a recent report from Symantec, largely because controls on Android apps are so thin that Google has to keep having to pull malware from its apps market.

The Android ecosystem is "a malware cesspool" because users purposely circumvent the security in Android to install new apps, and the Android apps market is largely unfiltered by Google, according to InfoWorld's Galen Gruman.

Apple's overly structured, primly paternalistic Apps Store is more secure because malware is often filtered out along with most of the interesting content.

iPhones, iPads and even iTouch and iPods are vulnerable even so, though there are fewer exploits and code aimed at them specifically because they are a slightly harder target.

All of which is freaking obvious.

Except 63 percent of smartphone users responding to a survey published by mobile security company BullGuard this month said specifically that their phones didn't need security or that the risk never crossed their minds.

During the last six months the number of malware reports involving smartphones rose 250 percent.

In six months.

In April a survey published by youth-government-education organization YouGov showed 14 percent of users thought security was built in, 31 percent thought there was no risk and 81 percent said they had no anti-virus capabilities on their phones at all.

Don't confuse them with details. Just keep repeating this:

Computers get viruses.

Smartphones are computers

Smartphones can get viruses

Security software can stop most viruses.

Security software can stop most viruses on smartphones.

Because smartphones are computers.

And they need security.

Because they're computers.

The smartphones.

Yes, yours.

That one.

Yes.

Srsly.

What’s wrong? The new clean desk test
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies