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Cyber criminals set to create bigger mobile threats

Cyber criminals have set their targets on smartphone and tablet users with smarter with phishing tactics and mobile malware set to grow in numbers.

SINGAPORE: As the number of smartphone and tablet users grows, so are the threats, as cyber criminals shift their focus to the greater dependence on mobile technology.

In a 2014 Security Round-up Report for the first quarter, security firm Trend Micro warned that mobile malware is set to grow in numbers and get smarter at gathering personal information such as banking credentials.

The security firm warns that with the prevalence of apps, users need to guard against malicious mobile apps.

These grab personal data from devices while they are charging, so users do not realise the battery power is draining as the malware does its thieving work.

There are currently two million malicious mobile applications around the world, and Trend Micro warns that this is set to rise to three million by end-2014.

In Singapore, one in 1,000 mobile applications downloaded are malicious.

The malware commonly come in the form of fake or repackaged versions of popular game and social apps.

Trend Micro adds that most mobile malware are hosted on malicious sites or in third-party app stores.

Users in Singapore are particularly vulnerable to the threats, due to the relatively large number of people using mobile devices, with Trend Micro noting a 65 per cent growth in online banking malware for Singapore alone.

The issue is exacerbated by the increasingly common practice of bring-your-own-device (BYOD), that allows employees to use personally-owned devices to access company information and applications.

According to the security software company, cyber criminals continue to target  Android mobiles, and lure victims through social media with the tried and true modus operandi favoured by online criminals - phishing.

Nine in 10 targeted cyber attacks says Trend Micro, involve spear-phishing, a more sophisticated form of phishing.

This new form of data theft involves scammers sending spoof emails which appear to be from a legitimate organisation or familiar person, asking users to update login credentials or confirm account information.

This opens the way for hackers to get into secure networks with bona fide information.

And while phishing has been common on desktops, the concern now is that spear-phishing on mobiles can also happen when malicious email is opened on a hand-held device.

The mobile malware is also capable of pilfering information off the phone or tablet.

It is easy to fall for such ruses as scammers bank on another area of familiarity - personal information that's publicly available on social networking sites.

So the best way to stay safe, the firm advises, is to download apps only from reputable sources, be careful of sharing information and of course, installing security solutions on mobile devices, is another good move. 

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