Smartphones have become a central part of our lives, allowing us to perform all sorts of tasks that make our everyday existence easier and more enjoyable. But, while they aim to heighten convenience, there is a real feeling that smartphones are becoming a bigger target for cybercriminals, writes Carey van Vlaanderen, ESET South Africa CEO.
So, why are criminals eager to get into our devices?
A smartphone knows everything about us
The amount of information stored on a smartphone has skyrocketed in recent years. The connectivity of apps means we supply nearly every piece of information about ourselves, whether its bank account details or our preferred taste in pizza.
For a cybercriminal potentially wanting to commit identity theft, a smartphone is a goldmine.
It’s a way into companies and other organisations
The use of bring your own dvice (BYOD) has become one of the most prominent trends for companies around the globe. Cybercriminals are viewing these devices as an ideal gateway into stealing valuable corporate information.
Security can be lax
The rise of BYOD has also caused plenty of headaches for a number of companies in various industries, mainly due to difficulties in rolling out a unified approach to security.
In a recent Tech Pro Research survey of CIOs, tech executives and IT workers, 45% of respondents said mobile devices posed the greatest risk to a company’s infrastructure, with the fragmented nature of some mobile platforms cited as a primary reason.
Autofill has become our best friend
One of the reasons our phones are carrying more personal information than ever before is primarily down to our desire for convenience.
With our devices now handling a myriad of services and subsequent apps, we find ourselves with a larger number login details than ever before.
It’s a route into your wallet
Our phones can be used to transfer money, pay our bills, and are even being used as a method of payment.
Apps such as SnapScan and FlickPay are pushing mobile payments into the mainstream, and some experts expect it to be a trend that will continue over the next few years.
Of course, the only drawback is that they are likely to catch the attention of cybercriminals.
Phones know where you are and where you are work
In many circumstances, the reason behind tracking your device are entirely innocent, such as helping you get the most out of your data and your apps.
For example, if you’re out and about, you can check out restaurant or business recommendations with just a couple of swipes.
However, hacking a device’s GPS capabilities is not seen as a difficult task, with many gamers using it to cheat at the popular augmented reality game Pokémon Go in the hands of the criminals, a compromised GPS could be an unnerving prospect.
For several years now, Bluetooth has been a regular feature on smartphones and other mobile devices. Yet, like GPS, it is still seen as a potential entry point for cybercriminals.
The effects of such an attack can result in Bluesnarfing – where a phone’s private information is compromised, or Bluebugging, which allows a criminal to take complete control of your phone.
But while there is a risk, these methods are becoming increasingly harder for hackers to exploit.
Some scams are specific to mobile
There are several well-known ways in which cybercriminals can use your smartphones to make quick cash.
In countries like China, for example, malware can be used to access devices and force them to call premium numbers that charge large amounts.
These scams are not only potentially lucrative, but can also spread across large numbers of devices.
They’re a great way of sending spam
Everyone hates spam. Well, apart from cybercriminals, anyway.
There are several reasons why a criminal would want to send spam, but many of them see smartphones as the ideal platform for sending these communications.
This is mainly because it is much harder for service providers to track down and block offenders.
Users are ignorant about the dangers
Many of the most seasoned tech users are now well acquainted with best practices when it comes to using laptops or desktops, but smartphones often slip down the list of priorities.
Which, in some ways is surprising, given that smartphones have increasingly been targeted since as early as 2005.
However, as the threat is more visible than ever, we’re slowly beginning to understand that security matters. Let’s treat them with the importance they deserve.