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Infosec: Kaspersky kills off the iPhone

Smartphone ID database needed, says CEO

The death of the iPhone is being foretold and the outlook for the PC and laptop aren't much better. Influential security company CEO Eugene Kaspersky told PC Advisor at InfoSec today that both are set to be consigned to history.

The iconic Apple iPhone will either not exist or occupy a very small niche satisfying the needs of committed Mac fans around five years from now, predicts Kaspersky.

The founder of Kaspersky Lab says that of the five main mobile platforms currently in existence, the only two guaranteed to last beyond the next five years are Android and Symbian. Open-source platforms will outlast closed systems such as the iPhone OS, BlackBerry OS and Windows Mobile, believes Kaspersky. To survive, the closed systems need to change their approach and get rid of their restrictions for developers, he says.

If Apple doesn't change its approach, the iPhone will become a niche model for fans of Apple, but it will not be a mass market product, says Kaspersky. However, the security company chief, whose main focus is on keeping malware off "digital devices", believes Apple boss Steve Jobs is content for this to be the case.

In the meantime, Kaspersky Lab is focusing its efforts on thwarting the increasing number of malware attacks targeting smartphones. With their open source software and broad appeal, Kaspersky believes mobile phones or mini computers built around Android and Symbian are most likely to survive and will also become the targets of increasing attack. So far, only a handful of mobile phone viruses have been identified, but this will change as the smartphone evolves to become a substitute for the laptop or netbook of today.

Kaspersky offers software to secure a smartphone. This takes the form of antivirus, plus an anti-theft feature that allows the handset owner to lock or wipe the device in the event of it being lost or stolen. It can also be tracked using GPS, even if the thief replaces the SIM card.

With ample storage, fast processors, multiple connectivity options and portable convenience, the smartphone will have succeeded the PC and laptop completely by the end of the decade, predicts Kaspersky. Rather than taking a screen and keyboard with them, smartphone owners will use their handset as their single personal computing device and will hook up to a screen and a keyboard whenever and wherever it is convenient or necessary to do so.

But this scenario has implicit dangers, says Kaspersky. Much like a car, he says, a smartphone is a dangerous item, except that when you drive a car you endanger only one or a few people; with a smartphone you pose a threat to many, whether through botnets or by using your handset to control other devices. Kaspersky alluded to dark doings to which he is privy and the increase in terrorist, fanatic and political activities, some of which are organised or made easier through the use of technology.

Because of such threats – and because smartphones are already becoming devices in which people store and organise their whole lives – Kaspersky believes the time has come for a database of smartphone owners. Much like gun ownership, Kaspersky outlined, smartphone owners would need to register their handsets. The handsets themselves would have a unique identifier code associating the handset with the owner. Access to the handset would be controlled by a PIN code or even a biometric fingerprint reader.

As well as ensuring only the handset owner could get at the data stored on the device, a hardware security solution would make transactions such as online banking and purchases safe. Executable files and sensitive data could also be securely transferred.

Acknowledging that IDs can be traded and registration details transferred, Kaspersky came down firmly on the side of regulation and registration. We won't stop everyone, he said, "professionals will find a way to do it anyway", but that shouldn't mean we can't stop most bad guys. "Let's stop most of them", he concluded.

See also: PC Advisor Security advice

See also: Kaspersky Mobile protects lost phones

See also: mobile phone reviews


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