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McAfee’s 2010 threat report indicates sharp rise in mobile device-based malware

Internet security developer McAfee released its fourth-quarter threat report on Tuesday which revealed some troubling information for the growing masses of smartphone users. Apparently, a growing market breeds more frequent offenders on the malware front. Who knew??? The company saw a 46 percent increase from 2009 to 2010 in the number of malware threats to cellphones and tablets.

Portable Document Format (PDF) files are a big threat area, as the widely used document format is readable on most every device and the file format is particularly well-suited to carrying embedded malware. Similarly, the PDF format’s architect Adobe, also the developer of Flash, is named as the favorite target for hackers in 2010, overtaking the dubious honor held by Microsoft in the previous year.

Preductably, McAfee pins the threat increase to the growing market for mobile devices, which are particularly susceptible to attack from a range of sources since, unlike a personal computer, security software isn’t an option. Even simply surfing the web has its dangers. “McAfee Labs found that within the top 100 results of the top daily search terms, 51 percent led to malicious sites, and on average each of these poisoned results pages contained more than five malicious links,” the report read. “McAfee Labs expects attacks using the techniques of search-engine abuse and trend abuse to focus more specifically on new types of devices in 2011.”

Mobile devices are expected to remain a big target for hackers, as is software and tech developer Apple specifically. In fact, one of the great advantages the iPhone maker’s desktop and laptop computers offer in contrast to Windows PCs is their lack of susceptibility to most malware. Add to that the insane popularity of the company’s Internet-connected iPhone, iPod and iPad, and you can see why it makes a juicy target for hackers.

Amusingly, the report also reveals that spam is at its lowest levels in years, a fact chalked up to there being a “transition period” after several spam-spewing botnets went offline last year. So if you’ve been wondering where all of those male enhancement and Russian bride e-mail offers went… now you know.

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