Cyber criminals turning their attention to smart phones

January 25th, 2013


Cyber criminals have long centered on running their cons on PC users. And they’ve been remarkably successful in stealing personal information and stealing funds from countless people. Now these cyber criminals are unleashing their malware attacks on smart phones, tapping into an additional huge potential market of naive users. This will come as a surprise to nobody. Smart phones are growing in popularity. And many users treat their smart phones as miniature computers. They surf the net, send e-mail messages and bank online using their smartphones. Fortunately, it is easy to do something to reduce the chances of mobile malware. It mostly requires that you employ good sense when navigating the internet using your smart phone.

Scary Numbers

It’s challenging finding data on the frequency of smart phone cyber attacks. But in a recent column, CNN Money writer David Goldman does an excellent job of scaring his readers. For instance, he denotes a recent mobile malware hack on Verizon that allowed cyber criminals to steal debit-card numbers. That attack resulted in a loss of $20 million. That’s just a single attack. Goldman cites numbers from Lookout Security that found that 4 in 10 smartphone users will click or swipe on an unsafe Web link in the next year. He also reported that anti-virus giant McAfee reported mobile malware attacks have jumped by a factor of six. On the subject of protection, mobile phone users are lax. According to security organization SANS, just one fifth of smartphones are protected by anti-virus software.

The Good News

Smart phone users, though, shouldn’t panic. Malware attacks against mobile devices remain relatively rare. That is especially so when compared to the number of threats levied against PCs. For example, Goldman writes that McAfee as of mid-2012 had uncovered about 13,000 varieties of mobile malware. That’s significant. However the company also had detected well over 90 million forms of malware aimed instead at PCs. That’s a staggering number. Why have cyber criminals been so aimed at PCs? They’ve been successful. They don’t really have an serious incentive to take their malware to smartphones since they are already swindling so much money away from PC users. But as Goldman writes, and the malevolent nature of swindlers always proves, that's just a matter of time.

Protect Yourself

You can protect yourself from mobile malware exactly the same way you protect yourself from PC-based cyber attacks: Use good sense.

Never, ever provide sensitive information such as your Social Security Number or checking account numbers to companies that request it through e-mail. Your bank would not request such personal data within an e-mail message. Always be wary when downloading apps. Make sure you review apps before installing them, and refrain from shopping in unregulated app stores.

We recently shared a list of the top 5 safest app stores - check it out, its worth a look!
Another great resource, customized security recommendations for your specific device - the FCC's Smartphone Security Checker tool.