Protecting Me

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Symantec shifts from protecting your computers, to protecting your data and reputation.

Four to five years ago, to be protected on the internet meant protecting a particular device when it was connected the internet, whether PC, Mac or mobile device. Today however, thanks to the proliferation of social media and the internet, there are so much more of us online than ever before. More of us are storing our information in the cloud, as well as on social networks.

At the recent Next@Norton event held on San Francisco earlier this year, Symantec representatives were adamant that, instead of protecting machines and devices, there is now the need to protect “me” while on the internet.

A Nielsen survey done last year estimates that in a single month, over 53 billion minutes were spent on Facebook, and that’s just for the United States. The way we’re interacting with one another has changed drastically. For that, Symantec teamed up with Facebook to offer Norton Safe Web, an app that automatically scans your timeline for bad and malicious links.

Even then, scammers have found many ways to take advantage of Facebook and its (supposed) 900 million users. For example, with Like-jacking, users are presented with an enticing link (the bait) which brings the user to a page which claims to require some kind of identification before they can proceed, typically in the form of a CAPTCHA test. Unbeknownst to the user, the page hides a Like button underneath the CAPTCHA test submit button, which then generates a Like instead.

Another scan, Comment-jacking works in a similar way, where a comment is added instead of typing characters to complete a CAPTCHA test. Once done, the original malicious link is reposted in users’ walls for their friends and family to see.

On Twitter, malicious links scammers creating fake accounts to follow a number of users, and use @ replies to spam their followers with malicious links. And in the event that a user’s Twitters account can somehow be taken over, their accounts are then used to send out Direct Message (DM) spam to their unsuspecting followers.

Whatever the scam, the common thread is the scam post coming from a trusted friend and/or follower, with the implied validation that the link is safe to click on.

Symantec also warns that drive-by downloads are popular methods used by scammers to trick users into downloading malware masquerading as a legitimate app or plugin. To counter this, their Norton Labs counterparts are working on something called the Norton App Advisor.

Currently still in development, Norton App Advisor is essentially a reputation-based system for social media applications. Combined with data from Norton Safe Web, users can get information on each social media app such as who built it, what kinds of user information it accesses, who built the app and so on. The aim is to provide users with additional information to determine if the app is safe to download and install.

Norton App Advisor’s significance is even more apparent when you consider that Facebook cannot monitor all third-party apps designed to work with their social media platform, as those apps can be hosted on external websites outside of Facebook’s purview, while accessing your publically available data through Facebook’s open APIs.

While everyone in the industry knew that mobile was going to be the next big thing, it was the iPhone that really got the ball rolling. Aside from just having antivirus and anti-malware in your smartphone, you also want to be able to secure and locate a device when lost or stolen. With over 7 million downloads so far on Google Play, Norton Mobile Security is Symantec’s solution for mobile devices.

With mobile malware, it was all about Symbian to begin with, though numbers started declining once signing Symbian apps was introduced in 2006. Apple’s iOS has largely remained malware-free, though rooter iOS devices remain vulnerable (anyone remember the Ikee worm?) as they can load non-sanctioned apps outside of Apple’s walled garden.

Android on the other hand, has malware numbers shooting through the roof. In 2012, Symantec says that there about 4,000 samples of malicious APK files identified in February, shooting up to 12,000 samples in April, and then 16,000 in May. And when you looked at the rise of polymorphism in malicious Android APKs, the ratio of families to samples in July 2011 was about 1:8. In May 2012, that rose to a mind-boggling 1:159. This is worrisome, as there are over 70 different sources for Android apps outside of Google Play.

We’re in an age where we’re consuming and creating more data than ever. We’re using multiple devices at one go, from various locations and connection points. We want to feel comfortable that our information stays private when we want it to be. With the changing security landscape, evolving consumer habits, the continuing rise of mobile as well as, what else, Windows 8, Symantec certainly has a lot on their plate. There’s not going to be a guarantee that the new products and services that Symantec has up their sleeves will be effective against the unrelenting onslaught if malware, but at least, they’ve got their eye on the ball.

Norton Hotspot Privacy

Description: Norton Hotspot Privacy

An upcoming app from Norton, Hotspot Privacy functions much like a VPN, but helps secure your device’s internet connection by hiding your IP behind an anonymous serves address from a user-selectable country. The app will be made available for both iOS and Android platforms.

Norton Mobile Utilities 2.0

Description: Norton Mobile Utilities 2.0

Coming soon to Google Play, version 2.0 of Symantec’s Norton Mobile Utilities lets users define different battery use profiles, with the ability to specify actions such as turning off the vibrate function, or dimming the screen.

Norton App Advisor

Description: Norton App Advisor

A work in progress, Norton App Advisor is a mashup between social network app graph data and Norton Safe Web. This gives insight into specific social media applications, such as who built it, data it accesses, who built the app and so on.


This new website aims to provide more information and news regarding mobile security for Android, iOS, tablets and phones, in a format that’s more palatable and understandable for the non-geek user, complete with widgets and interactive tools.



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