Smartphone users warned to increase handset security against cyber attacks

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One of Britain's leading technology entrepreneurs has warned of the dangers of smartphone cybercrime, as figures released this week show incidents are sharply rising.

Eldar Tuvey, the co-founder of web security firm ScanSafe, said smartphone security would be "a growing problem" as users increasingly turned to mobiles for browsing and transactions.

"Smartphones are the new laptops," Mr Tuvey said. "Security will become more and more of an issue as hackers focus on the vulnerabilities of iPhone and Android handsets. It's an arms race between security vendors and malware hackers. They go, like all criminals, where the money is."

Mr Tuvey made his name co-founding ScanSafe, which was sold to Cisco for $183m (£114m) in 2009. His latest venture Snappli, an app that compresses mobile web traffic to minimise data charges, offers built-in protection for users against smartphone threats.

The security warning comes after Symantec's annual Norton cybercrime report released this week noted an increase in attacks on mobile devices.

Hackers use a variety of methods to target smartphones but a popular method is malware apps that trick users into paying hidden charges. "Toll fraud" programmes prompt smartphones to send bogus premium text messages which are then charged to an owner's bill. The money winds up in the pockets of the people responsible for the viruses and the complexity of the programmes means they often go undetected.

Lookout Mobile Security, who specialise in protecting smartphones from cyber attacks, said that in the past 12 months the amount of toll fraud viruses found on their customers' devices had risen from 29 to 62 per cent.

Cyber security is becoming an increasingly big issue as the way users browse the web changes. Last week the Government intelligence agency GCHQ warned businesses to be more vigilant of hackers and cyber-attacks.

Iain Lobban, the agency's director, said too many businesses have "misplaced" confidence in their cyber security and need to be better protected against attacks.