The Internet is being used to spread malware, infect users’ phones and as a means for cybercriminals to issue commands to their botnets.

The first piece of mobile malware to make use of the Internet was written by a Ukrainian hacker back in 2004. Cybercriminals then lost interest in these types of programs until quite recently, when from June 2009 to June 2010, 35% of all detected smartphone malware operated via the Internet.

There’s a perfectly logical explanation for this—smartphones are becoming increasingly popular. In 2009, the share of the worldwide mobile phone market accounted for by the sale of smartphones stood at 14.2%, and according to Gartner, a respected technology research company, it is expected that this growth will continue up to 18.6%.

Significant reductions in the cost of the mobile Internet has made it more accessible to the wider public and lots of mobile devices are now connected to the Web. In practice, this means cybercriminals have yet more resources to exploit.

New mobile malware boasts a broad range of functionality, such as the capability to download other malicious files, detect Internet connections or establish new ones, undertake URL redirection and carry out phishing attacks. Research by Kaspersky Lab has shown that botnets built using infected mobile devices will become more like standard botnets, i.e. they can send spam, steal passwords en masse, carry out DDoS attacks on mobiles, etc.

Malware for mobiles will become increasingly complex and operating system specific, while computer users will become ever more reliant on their mobile devices as they gradually usurp the place of desktops.