Smart phone, tablet security

Cyber criminals targeting mobile devices

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Security experts say there's an explosion in the number of criminal hack attacks on mobile devices.  Now you have to look out for viruses, malware and entirely new schemes you've never heard of.

Leanne Karlgut had no idea her phone had a virus until one day in the middle of a quiet auditorium.

"My phone started singing a song and the song had a couple curse words in it and I, there's no way I could make it stop," she said.

An investigation found cyber criminals are trying to attack our phones and tablets at an alarming rate.  McAfee Labs tells us there was a 600 percent increase in the number of mobile malware threats it found from 2011 to 2012.

Cyber security expert George Waller estimates nearly 50 percent of all smart phones and tablets are already infected.

"As more people are using the phone for both their personal use and their business use, the malware writers are viewing that as a good, a good spot to hit you," said Waller, with StrikeForce Technologies.

Not just that, people often have no idea they've been hit.  If you click on a poison link, text or download an infected app, your phone can be zapped with malware.  Some vicious viruses install "key logging software," which allows crooks to record every text or email you write and every password you enter.

"It could get your banking credentials and essentially go into your bank, act as you," warns Waller.

Another prediction for 2013: An increase in mobile ransomware.  That's where your malware hijacks and freezes your device until you pay a fee.

If you use mobile wallet app, some experts worry when you "tap and pay" with your cell phone, criminals could intercept that shortwave radio chip transmission, which sends your credit card info from the phone to a retailer.

There's also a way for crooks to program a smart phone to puck up chip signals directly from a credit card and you wouldn't have a clue.

"So I have one person standing next to a victim and my accomplice at a retail location could be halfway around the world and they've just spent this person's credit card," said Eddie Lee, with Blackwing Intelligence.

The wireless Trade Association says with all these growing tactics, the battle never ends for companies to stay ahead of cyber crooks.

"The industry is working incredibly hard to try to protect both its networks and its own users," said Jot Carpenter, with CTIA, which is an international nonprofit that represents the wireless communication industry.

CTIA says you can stay ahead of the bad guys by:

  • Downloading updates for apps and your device's operating system
  • Never clicking on any links that look suspicious

That's how Karlgut's phone picked up that embarrassing virus.

"I had no idea that phones could get viruses," she said.

Experts say your wireless device could be infected with malware if it runs very slowly, or if there's a tremendous amount of texts being sent from your phone or airtime being used.  If you think you have a problem, experts say contact your wireless provider.

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