The same week one of the world's worst spam operations is being shut down, security researchers are warning the next big threat may not be for PCs at all -- but rather for mobile phones.
A report issued Wednesday by the Georgia Tech Information Security Center says spam and other botnet-based attacks will make the move to mobile in the coming months. The study, called the Emerging Cyber Threats Forecast for 2009 (PDF), was presented at the GTISC Security Summit in the US.
"As Internet telephony and mobile computing handle more and more data, they will become more frequent targets of cyber crime," the researchers say.
The concern is that hackers will begin stealthily taking over phones the way they've taken over network computers, turning them into virtual "bots" to do their bidding (hence the term "botnet"). Because of mobile phones' increasing computing power -- not to mention their always-on nature -- the researchers fear they'll soon become an obvious target.
"Large cellular botnets could then be used to perpetrate a [denial of service] attack against the core of the cellular network," says Patrick Traynor, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech involved in the study. "But because the mobile communications field is evolving so quickly, it presents a unique opportunity to design security properly -- an opportunity we missed with the PC," he adds.