As we go mobile-first, so follows fraud

Browsing the news last week – as you do – a couple of stories caught my eye which I felt compelled to write about. Both stories are industry ‘firsts’, and both of them concern our smartphones.

The first of these stories that I happened to chance upon was while reading PaymentWeek. Largely overlooked by many of the press, the article explained that mobile fraud is now outpacing that of online and in-store fraud for the first time.

The research, published by a company called Kount Inc., confirms what we’ve been talking about here at Intel Security for some time; that your mobile phone is just as much a target for hackers and criminals than your desktop computer is, yet still too many of us continue to flaunt the risks by not securing our devices.

Take, for example, the findings of a study we published earlier this year. This revealed that a quarter of people don’t even have basic mobile protection, like pin or password in place. And increasingly, even a password won’t provide you with adequate security to protect your phone.

Earlier this month, experts revealed a critical vulnerability affecting a frightening 95 per cent of all Android smartphones, possible to be exploited by hackers with a single text message. I don’t need to do any maths to tell you that’s a lot of smartphones.

So why are our mobiles becoming such a target for fraudsters and criminals?

The second story I want to talk about provides a very good explanation, which is that smartphones have now overtaken laptops as the most popular means of accessing the internet – up to two hours every day, according to Ofcom. I’m guessing that figure is an average across lots of different age groups because, if I think about how much my nephew uses his phone, two hours doesn’t cover half of it.

Ofcom does indeed support my assumptions, reporting that those aged 16-34 are most likely to prefer smartphones, although interestingly usage is also growing amongst the older generations, particularly those aged 55-64.

Both of these stories point to one frightening conclusion – as we head into the mobile-first age, hackers, cyber criminals and fraudsters aren’t very far behind us. We need to start thinking of our smartphones for what they are; sophisticated, micro-computers, which are vulnerable to attack unless we protect them. And exactly the same can be said for any smart device, whether that’s a phone, watch, car, or even fridge.

This isn’t just a warning for consumers either, there’s certainly more that can be done from within the industry too. For example, ensuring that smartphones are equipped with some sort of security software out-of-the-box, just in the same way that a new laptop would.

So, if you’re reading this and you haven’t thought about securing your mobile, please do yourself a favour and do something about it. Start thinking smarter when it comes to your smartphone. There’s lots of useful information on the Intel Security blog, including this piece I wrote earlier in the year.

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