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Published: Tuesday April 9, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday April 26, 2013 MYT 1:16:29 AM

‘Hackers targeting your mobile phone’

RIK FERGUSON looks like someone not to be messed with.

The humorous IT security expert, who sports numerous tattoos and has a penchant for heavy metal music, can hack into your mobile phone with a single SMS.

He can then remotely listen to your calls, read text messages and even access the password to your online bank account.

“It’s creepy, isn’t it?” said Ferguson, who is global vice-president for security research for IT firm Trend Micro, as he demonstrated the hack. Yet, many users still refused to believe how vulnerable they are when they use mobile devices, he added.

Technology experts are warning that mobile devices have become the next lock to pick for cyber criminals.

One in three mobile users globally had been exposed to some form of mobile cyber crime, according to a 2012 report by anti-virus firm Norton by Symantec.

In Singapore, one in five adults has been a victim of either social or mobile cyber crime, such as scams. Victims suffered an estimated US$944mil (RM2.8bil) in losses, the report said.

As mobile devices become smarter, they have become more susceptible to hacking.

They are almost always connected and are often loaded with much more personal information. For hackers, these devices are easy targets and a treasure trove of intimate data that they can obtain and sell.

“Criminals follow consumer behaviour. The more we move from traditional to mobile devices, the more they will too,” said Ferguson.

Currently, the most common threats are what is known as premium-rate billing scams – apps secretly running software in the background to inflate phone bills.

Then there are data stealers who snitch on information such as addresses, said Joseph Gan, chief technology officer of local mobile security firm V-Key.

Using the app, a sophisticated hacker can instruct the phone to record audio or snap photos, all without the user ever knowing.

Mobile users can protect themselves by buying apps only from trusted vendors such as Google or Apple.

It’s also a good idea to read the “permissions” that apps require before downloading them. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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