The unfortunate reality is that cybercrime is fast becoming an everyday occurrence that we must all contend with. However, few of us appreciate the growing level of threat from hackers as we walk around with our smartphones tucked safely in our pockets and handbags.
According to a BBC report during Mobile World Congress (March 2013) the number of smartphones in the UK is expected to hit 50 million in 2013, with consumers spending around £1.9bn on their devices. This large population of smartphone users is an opportunity cyber criminals simply cannot ignore.
Just how high the level of threat we face from cyber attackers was brought into sharp reality by the *Georgia Tech 2013 Emerging Cyber Threats Report published last November.
This report highlighted a number of emerging threats for smartphone users including:
- Counterfeit malicious hardware: smartphones containing extra components that are difficult and prohibitively expensive to detect but which can compromise an entire network
- Malicious and privacy undermining apps: these are growing quickly, particularly for Android devices. Indeed the number of malicious malware apps grew to 175,000 in September 2012 from just 30,000 in June (According to security firm Trend Micro)
- Browser security issues: mobile devices are now the most popular way to access the internet. However, it would seem browser developers are sacrificing security for design and as a result mobile users are three times more likely to visit a phishing site than desktop users
- Mobile Wallet/NFC attacks: the NFC protocol is a possible point of attack that requires further research, following the revelation that malware known as Ghost and Leech have been discovered that can siphon details from an NFC-enabled wallet
- Malware sensors: clever malware writers continue to find new ways to take advantage of mobile devices, even getting them to act as sensors recognising and capturing key strikes typed into a nearby computer
- Cloud risks: many clouds have automatic authentication built into their phone apps making them an obvious point of entry to stored data
The more functionality we have on our mobile devices and the more things we use them for, the more attractive they become to others and the greater the opportunity for hackers to access to our personal information. While new risks such as those highlighted by Georgia Tech are emerging every day, sadly few of us take the time to undertake all the security checks necessary to keep our phones completely safe. The risk of data theft and loss is a reality, but mobile device protection can truly provide smartphone users with a high degree of protection against cyber criminals.
The full *Georgia Tech 2013 Emerging Cyber Threats Report can be downloaded at www.gtcybersecuritysummit.com/pdf/2013ThreatsReport.pdf.