by Tom Kaneshige

Are iPhone Hackers Lying in Wait?

Feb 12, 2010
Consumer ElectronicsMobileSecurity

nA new survey shows the fallibility of iPhone owners when it comes to security.n

Most iPhone owners really don’t care about security, according to a new survey by ESET, an anti-malware software vendor.

“We don’t see in-depth defense among smarphone users,” James Abrams, director of technical education at ESET, told amidst a throng of iPhone owners milling around on the Macworld Expo showroom floor in San Francisco.

It’s likely these iPhone owners won’t take security seriously until the iPhone has a Toyota moment, when a simmering problem finally bubbles over and splatters them right in the public eye. “It wouldn’t surprise me if that moment is still a couple years off,” Abrams said.

ESET commissioned a survey of a more than 1,000 smartphone owners—35 percent iPhone, 32 percent Blackberry, and the rest a mix—and released its findings yesterday. The key finding: a majority of people don’t take security seriously.

Among iPhone and Blackberry users, 55 percent don’t lock their smartphone. Some 40 percent of all smartphone users said they’re concerned with malicious software infecting their device, while only one in four said they actually use antivirus software, including iPhone owners.

Can iPhone owners even run anti-virus software? “None of the iPhone users should have reported that they are using antivirus as Apple will not approve such software for the iPhone, even though Apple has had to pull spyware off of their App Store,” Abrams wrote in his blog. Such is the fallacy of surveys.

Nevertheless, Abrams worries that unsuspecting iPhone owners will have their day of reckoning perhaps in two years. Why so long? He figures hackers are lying in wait, ready to exploit the iPhone.

Hackers might be waiting for Apple to unlock the iPhone for different networks. Or they want iPhones to get into more people’s hands. Perhaps they’re waiting for a banking iPhone app that they can target. “Hackers don’t target for fun,” Abrams said, comparing them to the guy who created a worm for jailbroken iPhones as a joke.

Mobile online banking attracts hackers, Abrams said. The ESET survey found one in four users make purchases using their smartphones. Nearly one in three accesses banking websites or apps. “Combined with access to email and social networking accounts is what makes the devices attractive to hackers and other criminals,” Abrams wrote.

“It is the adoption of commerce that will create the irresistible opportunity for those with malicious intent,” he said.

Tom Kaneshige is a senior writer for in Silicon Valley. Send him an email at Or follow him on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline.