About 50% of American adults own smartphones, according to a 2012 report by Pew Internet. These mobile devices are used to share photos and videos, send emails, comparison shop and post activity updates. Additionally, an increasing number of smartphone owners are using their mobile device to buy retail goods – such purchases totaled $8 billion in 2012, Forrester Research reported.
As smartphone ownership rises, however, so does the threat from cyber attackers. The devices can present a tempting target, potentially providing access to financial, health and other personal information.
In its Mobile Threat Report for the fourth quarter of 2012, the digital security firm F-Secure noted that, “Every quarter, malware authors bring forth new threat families and variants to lure more victims and to update on the existing ones.”
The report highlighted the example of the “Eurograbber,” which infects personal computers and then dupes victims into installing a version of the trojan on their mobile devices. Eurograbber was blamed for the theft of $47 million from thousands of bank accounts.
Clearly, it’s vital for smartphone owners to take precautions and play it smart in order to avoid falling prey to hackers and the following risks:
Mobile viruses can disable your phone or send messages that can greatly inflate your monthly bill. Malware can drain your battery, delete files or allow confidential information to be collected and transmitted to other devices without your knowledge.
If hackers gain access to the electronic serial number (ESN) and mobile identification number (MIN) associated with a cell phone, they can make calls that will be associated with that phone number and subsequently billed to the legitimate user’s account.
Hackers can use spoofing techniques to make it appear as if a phone call or text message is coming from a legitimate person or company. For example, according to the Federal Communications Commission, thieves can use ID spoofing to gain access to an individual’s financial details by making it appear as if they are calling from a bank or government agency.
Security experts offer a slate of safety tips for smartphone owners, including:
Increasingly, people seem to be joined at the hip to their smartphones, for business and pleasure. While that can bring many benefits, it also means that smartphone owners must stay smart and keep hackers from getting within touching distance of their pocketbook.