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Fri 10 Jun 2011 02:04 PM

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Smartphones are key targets for cybercriminals - experts

IT security firms say mobile malware will double in 2011; UAE ranks high on list of email viruses

Smartphones are key targets for cybercriminals - experts
(AFP/Getty Images)

Malware attacks on smartphones and social networking sites are set to double this year as cybercriminals turn their attention to a rapidly growing IT market, security experts said.

Smartphones and iPhones, alongside websites such as Facebook and Twitter, will be the most vulnerable to threat as sophisticated hackers tap into a new trend of on-the-go technology.

“The mobile platform will be the platform of choice for cybercriminals in 2011,” said Bulent Teksoz, chief security strategist for Middle East and North Africa, Symantec.

“Cyber crime is a business. For the past two years, the attacks on the mobile platform haven’t been that prevalent because of the low return on investment, but everybody has at least one mobile phone now.”

An estimated five billion mobile phones are in use today and are increasingly used as a means to access the internet, raising their exposure to cyber-threats.

The UAE has the fifth highest rate globally of email-borne viruses, with one in 138.5 emails infected with malware – a problem that is increasingly affecting businesses in the Gulf state.

“The situation with mobile malware is particularly disturbing because larger amounts of important data are stored on mobile devices,” said Denis Maslennikov, senior malware analyst, Kaspersky Lab.

“Employees are increasingly using their personal mobile devices for work related purposes, so data leaks from individual smartphones are becoming a real headache for employers.”

Social networking sites are an easy marks for hackers. Experts say the profiles, friends and online activities of CEOs and board members are key targets for fraudsters looking to acquire sensitive company information.

“The effectiveness of social networking is demonstrated in the following statistic,” said Maslenniko. “In just one minor Twitter attack, a malicious link was followed by over 2,000 users in one hour.”

In the UAE, around 36 percent of the population is registered with Facebook, whilst Saudi Arabia, the Gulf’s most populous state, boasts 1.5 million users and 29 percent of Qatar’s residents subscribe to the site.

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