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Mobile Spam: How Vulnerable Can your Cell Phone Be?

A drastic spike has been observed in the number of mobile spam complaints worldwide, and anti-spam experts are worried about the various types of spam attacks that are likely to plague users in the near future.

The use of phone messaging as a business communication tool is increasing exponentially and marketers, observing the trend, find it a useful tool to increase their potential customer base. It is instantaneous and low cost, and a big money spinner for mobile operators, however these valuable aspects have unfortunately also made it a target of mobile phone spammers.

Users receive 10-20 spam messages on an average everyday. However mobile spam is not just about sending or receiving unwanted marketing messages. Unsolicited pornographic messages, urgent pleas for blood donation or funds donation-mostly to help a child, requests for dialing a certain number only to be duped into calling a premium-rate line, are just a few of the innovative ideas mobile phone spammers have come up with.

As per "insight into mobile spam", a study conducted last year that involved consumers and operators worldwide, more than 80% of the people interviewed reported receiving mobile spam.

ICSTIS, a regulatory body for all premium rate telephone services in the United Kingdom, had received around 150 complaints about mobile spam in the last nine months.

A survey report by the University of St.Gallen in Switzerland points that eight in ten mobile phone users receive unsolicited mobile messages.

On one side, technological inventions are making real time communication cheaper and simpler. The same technology acts like a double edged sword, increasing the scope for more insidious spam and malware attacks.

Mikko Hypponen, director of anti-virus research team at a Finnish firm, who had also been the first to raise an alarm about the Sasser virus outbreak, now warns about the havoc botnet spammers can bring for mobile users. A botnet spammer, by getting control of a phone, can access a wide network of mobile phones. Each phone hijacked by the spammer can potentially send thousands of spam messages without the user's knowledge. As messaging is not free, the financial implications are dreary.

Through the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, the US Government established the first national standards for the sending of commercial text messages, but it does not apply to all mobile spam. Countries in Europe and Asia have also tightened their anti-spam laws, however, they are not sufficient to effectively address all the potential threats that mobile spam can pose.

On a positive note, early this year, 15 leading mobile phone operators from around the world have come together with the GSM Association (GSMA) to sign a code of practice, through which the operators plan to introduce anti-spam conditions into all new contracts with third party suppliers, which will allow them to suspend or terminate the mobile contracts of spammers.

Tighter regulations from the side of governments and effective practices by mobile companies and operators will go a long way in making sure that the users do not receive what they do not want on their phones.

Related article: Mobile Users High Risk-takers than Desktop Users

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