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(Reuters) –
Cellphone security threats rose sharply last year as a proliferation of
Internet-enabled mobile devices like smartphones and tablets provided
new opportunities for cybercriminals, security software maker McAfee (NYSE:MFE) said.

In its fourth-quarter threat
report, released on Tuesday, McAfee said the number of pieces of new
cellphone malware it found in 2010 rose 46 percent over 2009’s level.

more users access the Internet from an ever-expanding pool of devices
— computer, tablet, smartphone or Internet TV — web-based threats will
continue to grow in size and sophistication," it said.

McAfee, which is being bought by Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) for $7.68 billion, said it expected PDF and Flash maker Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) to remain a favorite of cybercriminals this year, after it overtook Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) in popularity as a target in 2010.

attributed the trend to Adobe’s greater popularity in mobile devices
and non-Microsoft environments, coupled with the ongoing widespread use
of PDF document files to convey malware.

McAfee said Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, which last quarter overtook Nokia (HE:NOK1V)
as the maker of the world’s most popular smartphone software, had been
targeted by a trojan horse that buried itself in Android applications
and games.

And politically
motivated hacking was on the rise, it said, with the highest-profile
protagonist being the "Anonymous" activist group that targeted the
websites of organizations it perceived to be hostile to controversial
site WikiLeaks.

Confirming a trend
that other software security companies have reported, McAfee said spam
levels had decreased sharply, especially in the second half of the
fourth quarter, with 62 percent less by the end of the year than at the

The company said,
however, that spam’s hitting its lowest level for years simply
represented a transition period with several botnets — collections of
computers harnessed to act in concert — going dormant at an usually
busy time of year.

(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)