Cyber Criminals Turning to Social Networks and Cell Phones

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Cyber criminals are turning their attention to social networks and cell phones, according to this year’s Internet Security Report by Symantec.

It makes perfect sense, if you think about it. Just like pickpockets on the street, internet criminals are going to do better if they hang out where most people are.

A decade ago, that was in everybody’s Outlook Express inboxes; but these days it’s networks like Facebook and Twitter, and the cell phones we all carry in our pockets and handbags.

Symantec’s report covers a lot of detail about a variety of security threats facing internet users today.

Social networks are particularly vulnerable, it says, precisely because they’re social. People have become accustomed to meeting strangers electronically, and if those strangers do a good enough job of pretending to be legitimate, they can make use of social engineering attacks) to gain access to private data.

As for cell phones – the numbers have reached tipping point. Symantec’s report says:

“The installed base of smart phones and other mobile devices had grown to an attractive size. The devices ran sophisticated operating systems that come with the inevitable vulnerabilities—163 in 2010. In addition, Trojans hiding in legitimate applications sold on app stores provided a simple and effective propagation method.”

In case you need reminding, a Trojan is malicious code that hides inside something else that looks innocent. Hiding one inside a popular free game would be the perfect way of gaining access to thousands of phones.

So what should you do? Stop using the internet? Of course not.

Just as you’d normally keep a close eye on your personal belongings when walking through a busy street market in a strange town, you need to be careful on the internet. Don’t necessarily trust everything you see, or everything you read. Be circumspect about the links you click on, and watch out for anything else that seems out of the ordinary. Sometimes, it pays to be skeptical.