Criminals are increasingly exploiting smartphones and mobile applications to steal money and personal data, a government-based Internet safety campaign warned today.
Online watchdog GetSafeOnline.org, a joint initiative between the government, police and industry, made the warning as it announced Get Safe Online Week this week.
The group’s managing director Tony Neate, formerly a cybercrime investigator at the now-defunct National High-Tech Crime Unit, said that smartphones represent "big business for online criminals".
"These devices are essentially mini laptops with a wealth of personal information," he said. "Today there are clear signs of serious criminal intent to defraud users; we are seeing smart phones targeted by sophisticated and lucrative malware scams with increasing frequency and severity."
The campaign specifically highlighted the threat posed by "rogue apps", uncertified smartphone applications that contain malware. Installing these apps "enables fraudsters to take control of the victim’s phone, allowing them to make calls, send and intercept SMS and voicemail messages, and browse and download online content," a statement from GetSafeOnline.org claimed. "This enables them to gain access to all personal and payment data available on the phone".
Francis Maude, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, said that the increasing numbers of people using smart phones for banking and other "money matters" represent a target for cyber criminals. "More and more people are using their smart phone to transmit personal and financial information over the internet, whether it’s for online banking, shopping or social networking," he said.