Gardaí warn of surge in cyber criminals targeting mobile phones

Gardaí expect to see a significant increase in cyber criminals targeting people’s mobile phones in the coming years.
Gardaí warn of surge in cyber criminals targeting mobile phones

Specialist officers warn that Irish people are particularly exposed given our use of mobile phones to access the internet is almost a third higher than the European average.

The Garda Cyber Crime Bureau is urging people to protect financial and personal information on their smartphones from so-called mobile malware — malicious software used to target mobile devices like phones and tablets.

The Garda is supporting Europol, the EU police agency, in the Pan-European Mobile Malware Awareness Campaign this week, as part of European Cyber Security Month.

Garda Keith White of the Cyber Crime Bureau said that while incidents were low in the rest of Europe, people in Ireland use a lot more mobile data.

“I expect to see a big rise in this. We see it coming down the tracks” said Garda White.

“I expect to see more attacks this year and more complex and targeted attacks.”

Figures show at least 70% of Irish people use smartphones, amounting to some 2.3 million devices. In addition around 1.7m people have a tablet device.

The bureau says that web traffic on phones here is almost a third higher than the European average, and a quarter higher than the UK.

Garda White said that vast amounts of personal data is now being stored on mobile devices, including financial information, banking transactions, emails, personal history and location history.

He said in one case of ‘CEO fraud’ in Ireland, a businessman’s mobile was hacked and cyber criminals accessed his email account as well as other personal data.

Posing as the businessman they sent an email to a colleague, requesting that money be sent someone.

A large sum of money, thought to be more than five figures, was sent as a result.

Garda White said it is similar to other phishing methods, including ones where a person’s email is accessed and requests for money, typically after some purported crisis like a robbery, is sent to all his friends seeking money to get home.

“We have seen money change hands,” said Garda White.

He said eight to nine banks in the UK had been targeted recently, in which customers thought they were accessing the banks’ websites, but there was an ‘overlay’ website, taking the bank details.

Bureau tips: n Only install apps from a trusted source, if your bank or financial institution has an official app use it. n Ensure your mobile device software is up to date and ‘jailbreaking’ or ‘rooting’ a device seriously compromises its security. n Make sure you have a recent back up of your device, as an attack may render it useless, resulting in the loss of all your contacts, personal photos and files. n

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