The growing incidence of cyber attacks on smartphones has been making news for a while now. With Android devices constituting 72 percent of the smartphone market and iOS devices constituting 15 percent, the former category has been the main target of mobile Malware. Although the practice of ‘jail-breaking IOS devices’ to install applications not available in the Apple App store and the fact that an Apple product is more likely to owned by a wealthy consumer, has caught the attention of hackers as well. IT security companies are now warning that 2013 could be the worst year ever for Malware experienced globally by users of all mobile devices.
Besides the growth in the number of smartphone users, there are several factors which have caused this meteoric rise in incidence of cyber attacks.
Smartphones being used as computers by users: Users are storing their personal details such as name, address, bank records and other important information on these devices. This coupled with transfer of data using Bluetooth, has made smartphones extremely attractive to hackers.
Spurt in the BYOD trend at work: It is the employee owned hardware which is causing maximum chaos as more and more companies are joining the BYOD work culture without having equipped themselves with the necessary security. The growing use of cloud based applications, laptops and tablets has increased the risk for businesses as these may not be enabled with security features such as encryption and access control.
Smartphones as mobile wallets:Another reason for smartphones becoming popular with hackers is that they are increasingly being used as mobile wallets. This requires use of near-field communications (NFC) chips. NFC technology by itself is considered to be secure but the applications designed to use it are extremely vulnerable to security hazards. When one considers the fact NFC transactions this year alone may add up to $50 billion one gets a fair idea of the stakes involved.
In fact experts believe that another major risk to smartphone users may be through another technique that is being termed as ‘ransomware’. This malware takes control of the device and data within it and is forsaken only once the demanded ransom is paid.
While larger corporations are able to safeguard themselves against cyber theft via sophisticated malware systems and expensive insurance policies, most small businesses find themselves particularly vulnerable.To address this, Marc Kramer (a former small business owner himself) has started the Commercial Deposit Insurance Agency with the aim of offering affordable insurance to small businesses against losses arising from cyber theft (protection up to $50000 for a premium of $178 per year).
Ann Talbot, CFO for a California general contractor, whose company was targeted twice by cyber criminals, says the best way for small businesses to protect themselves is to have dual computers – one dedicated to banking and one for the remainder of company operations.
If you are a small business owner, then it’s time to consider safeguarding your business by taking an insurance against cyber theft as well. Protecting your business perhaps also necessitates that bank accounts not be accessed on smartphones since these devices are routinely used for accessing social media and other websites making them particularly vulnerable to hackers.