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Mitigating mobile and PC malware hybrid threats

Hybrid threats are becoming an increasing issue for mobile devices. Enterprise threats expert Nick Lewis explains how to mitigate the risk.

Mobile app screening has created a bit of a roadblock for malware that is infecting smartphones and tablets. I recently heard that "hybrid threats" are going to be an increasing mobile malware concern. Can you explain what hybrid threats are and how to mitigate their risks?

Symantec described hybrid threats as malware that starts on a personal computer and proceeds to infect a mobile device in a multi-step infection attack.

Many users connect their mobile devices to PCs to either charge them or to use the USB port for sharing files. File sharing over a USB port or via Bluetooth can result in a malicious application being installed on a smartphone without the user's knowledge.

Symantec said the Internet of Things is the next wave of malicious attacks. As people acquire more smart devices (smartphones, smart TVs or smart homes) and connect them on a regular basis, they may end up connecting to untrusted devices. Some devices may even require the smartphone or other smart device to install software that controls it. This could also be used to install malware.

The risks of hybrid threats can be mitigated largely by not connecting smartphones to infected PCs and keeping the PCs you use malware-free. In the future, we may see that connecting solely to trusted devices will be the only way to mitigate these threats.

Alternately, hybrid threats can be mitigated by only connecting mobile devices to PCs and devices that have certain trusted security software installed on them.

Connecting to untrusted devices may be necessary and common, but people will need to better secure their devices so malicious applications cannot be transferred from one device to another. Also, both disabling Bluetooth when it is not needed and not using your smartphone for file sharing will limit the device from being compromised. And while public charging stations are convenient, they could be connected to a malicious PC or device. I would advise against using any untrusted connection such as this.

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This was first published in August 2014

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