Australians are becoming increasingly mobile and, with the rapid adoption of wireless LANs, Australia is expected to follow the US where a recent study by Gartner revealed the number of frequent Wi-Fi users in North America will grow from 4.2 million to more than 31 million in 2007.
The enhanced functionality of emerging wireless devices offers a playground for hackers and e-vandals, in much the same way each new medium in the last two decades has offered such an opportunity.
Although malicious code has yet to cause serious damage or incur substantial costs in the wireless arena, such code seen in the lab and, in some cases, in the real world, has indicated this undesirable code has the potential for serious disruption to the wireless infrastructure.
As cellular phone technology is merged, Java and emerging technologies such as Bluetooth, cell phones will be able to send and receive data and applications from one wireless device directly to another.
The line between PDAs and cellular phones is already blurred and few dispute that the integrated, transaction-enabled wireless device that handles both voice and data will soon become widespread.
Unfortunately, this wireless utopia is unlikely to come without a price — increasingly sophisticated wireless threats that use the same capabilities; for example, connectivity, functionality, and speed. Viruses can spread between wireless devices, from wireless device to point-of-sale device, and from wireless device to PC.
The threat from malicious code in the wireless world is in its infancy. However, I believe this will soon change.
In much the same way the Internet changed the way viruses, trojans, and worms were created and distributed, the wireless world represents a fertile breeding ground for hackers and e-vandals willing to exploit this expanding medium.
Implementing proactive steps now against this inevitable threat is essential. As wireless technologies and applications expand and evolve, careful attention must be made to update and maintain security measures.
The alternative to waiting until the threat materialises ensures that substantial costs will be incurred through reduced productivity, loss of confidential information, and impaired consumer confidence.
Now is the time for users, corporations and service providers to guard against imminent threats from malicious code in the wireless world.
Chris Poulos is managing director of Trend Micro Australia