Cyber security starts at home


The number of security threats to mobiles is growing. James Pearce warns it’s up to the consumer to protect their device and urged dealers to push out solutions to them to increase their own revenues 

Concerns over cyber security aren’t exactly new, but in terms of mobile, they are certainly growing.

During our chat with Intel Security (formerly McAfee) CTO Raj Semani, he revealed that the number of malware threats against mobile devices had grown by 49 per cent in the last three months to more than a million – compared with just 13 per cent growth on PCs.

Cyber attacks in the UK (across all devices) hit the UK economy for more than £3 billion last year, while McAfee estimated the impact on the global economy was $445 billion (£290 billion).

To put that in perspective, £3 billion would buy you two of Chelsea-owner Roman Abramovich’s £1.5 billion yacht, six of the “world’s most expensive house” in LA (£500 million), 30 of the world’s most expensive footballer Gareth Bale or 300 Bugatti Veyrons. That is an excellent shopping spree.

Figures from British security department GCHQ claim that eight in 10 of the UK’s biggest businesses have experienced some kind of serious cyber attack, highlighting just how at risk we all are.

The bad guys making mobiles their target is hardly a surprise, given the major rise of the smartphone over the last eight or so years. As cliched as it has become, your phone is now a mini-computer and carries far more information on it than ever before.

Safety first

Data such as bank details or addresses that criminals seek are on your device because of how useful it is to store it. But that makes it vulnerable to an attack.

Malware is still a massive problem, but so is ransomware, where someone hijacks your phone and you have to pay to get control back, attacks through phishing emails and even spam.

In fact, the number of spam messages detected by McAfee is scary – more than six trillion spam messages were detected by the Intel subsidiary during the first three months of the year. It is a big problem in the UK, too, with 1,118 spam domains found in the UK – more than in Russia or Japan.

In terms of spam, McAfee is detecting six attacks every second. That’s 362 a minute, 21,720 an hour or 521,280 a day!

What makes this even scarier is the people element. McAfee revealed that nearly one in five members of staff will open a phishing email, despite the fact that phishing causes 95 per cent of all attacks on enterprise networks.

This backs up research from AVG, another security provider, which found that the vast majority of small businesses (84 per cent) felt that humans are their weakest security link, rather than smart devices.

Of course, it is a mixture of both, and just like you will hire security to protect your business, or add locks on your front door, it is key to make sure connected devices come with some kind of protection.

The worst thing is, there is a wide array of options and products out there that offer some form of protection, but it is unclear how many devices are left without anti-virus. The impression is that it is certainly a lot less than the number of unprotected PCs and laptops.

The security threat to mobile is real, and growing at an alarming rate. It is up to you to make sure your device isn’t one of the many that gets infected. And there’s also the chance to make a few extra sales in the channel by pushing security on to your customers.