Smartphones the new El Dorado for computer criminals

Smartphones are the new El Dorado for computer criminals and many owners are unaware of the risk or what to do about it, security experts warn.

As sales of smartphones and tablets have started to outpace those of personal computers, criminals are increasingly targeting the devices, security companies say.

It is a menace for both consumers and businesses because many people use their smartphones or tablets to access corporate networks without authorisation.

"This is something which is self-evident in the world of PCs," Intel president and chief executive Paul Otellini said at the mobile industry's annual congress in Barcelona.

"We all do something to protect our computers and personal information from hackers," he said. "In mobile computing we need this as well."

Mobile devices increasingly hold personal and financial information, he warned. "I believe, I contend that security is one of the most important features," the Intel boss said.

A study for major anti-virus software maker AVG found that six percent of US smartphone owners' devices had been infected with malware that was surreptitiously sending out their credit card details.

"The things that people need to be protected from on PCs they now need to be protected from when using their smartphones," said Stephen Simpson, consumer products chief at AVG.

"The threat is not perceived," Simpson said. "There is a perception that smartphones are more secure than they really are."

There are already some 1,000 different pieces of malware circulating that target smartphones, according to Kaspersky Lab, a leading computer security firm.

One of the most prevalent is malware which has the phone make surreptitious calls or send text messages to premium numbers, landing the criminals fat fees and phone owners with fat bills.

Smartphones are an attractive target for criminals as "there is a lot of money involved, it is an easy job and it is low risk," said the firm's founder, Eugene Kaspersky,

A study in four European countries conducted for Kaspersky Lab found that only 12 percent of smartphone owners had installed security software on their phones.

This is despite about one-third of people storing valuable data such as access codes and passwords on their phones and one-third using them for online banking.

When Kaspersky first attended the Mobile World Congress five years ago most companies could not understand why he came, although this has since started to change, he said.

Kaspersky said people needed to be educated: "Don't trust everyone, keep your brain on" while using smartphone applications.

Smartphone owners will begin using anti-virus software as they become victims or someone they know does, he said, and "in a few years 90 percent of people will have anti-malware or mobile security software installed," the same level as for PCs.

Kaspersky Lab announced at the Mobile World Congress a new version of its software that supports BlackBerry telephones and smartphones running on the Google-backed Android operating system.

AVG recently released an app to protect Android phones, which, like its flagship PC product, is free.

Both programmes have features that help users pinpoint lost phones and remotely lock and wipe their memory if necessary.

Another company, Open Kernel Labs, announced a security suite aimed at the business market.

"Mobile devices are the weak link in corporate networks," said the company's chief executive and founder, Steve Subar.

Employees have bought smartphones and tablets on their own and want to use them for work. These connections, if left unsecured, present risks to companies as infected phones could reveal network access codes as well as confidential documents.

Open Kernel's SecureIT Mobile Enterprise allows companies to secure employees' private smartphones - which also saves the company the price of acquiring and issuing handsets.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Programmer & IT Systems Technician

    £8000 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity ...

    Recruitment Genius: 2nd Line IT Support Engineer

    £17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity is now ...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you familiar with the sayin...

    Day In a Page

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most