Smartphone Hack Alert: Android Phones — And iPhones — Are At High Risk

June 6, 2013  |  

Your smartphone is in danger. Hackers are targeting Androids more and more in hopes of capturing personal information about the cell owner. And according to a  new report, Android users should take care when downloading apps.

For example, Superclean and DroidCleaner seemed harmless enough, helpful apps even, when they were listed on the Google Play store. But in actuality, they were dangerous apps that could send an Android user’s text messages, contacts and photos to a hacker’s computer, reports The Los Angeles Times.

In the first quarter of 2013 alone, the volume of malware targeted at mobile devices has increased nearly 40 percent, according to researchers at security solutions provider McAfee. This is slightly lower from the previous two quarters, but mobile attacks are still dangerous.

According to the McAfee report, overall malware growth across all computing devices totaled about 15 million new pieces of malicious attacks in the first three months of 2013. “Among the growth areas were an attack aimed at Facebook users who received a fake message from a friend, one in which compromised USB thumb drives sent personal information back to a hacker and one that took advantage of out-of-date software (Java, Office, Internet Explorer) to install ‘ransomware,’ reports the newspaper.

This hacker actually holds your computer ransom. “With ransomware, cyber criminals hold a system hostage and insist on payment to unlock a computer,” the report says. “But will they free the machine after the victim pays? There are no guarantees, and anonymous payment systems make it basically impossible to track their movements.”

Even iPhones are at potential risk. A group of researchers recently reveled they can hack Apple mobile devices through the charger. Researchers from Georgia Tech say they have found a way to hack into an iPhone or iPad in less than a minute using a “malicious charger,” reports CNN.

The researchers announced they will  demonstrate this at the Black Hat computer security conference, which begins July 27 in Las Vegas.

“Historically, Mac users have been able to boast of being largely malware free, in part because spammers, scammers and hackers preferred to target the larger number of Windows computers in the world,” reports CNN. This new discovery can shatter the security Apple users feel.

Apple products have always been thought of nearly “unhackable” because on its mobile iOS operating system, Apple has created a “closed garden” environment in which everything from apps to accessories has to be approved only by Apple. “But by attacking in a nontraditional way, the team of Billy Lau, Yeongjin Jang and Chengyu Song say, those defenses can be bypassed,” explains CNN.

“(W)e investigated the extent to which security threats were considered when performing everyday activities such as charging a device,” the team wrote. “The results were alarming: despite the plethora of defense mechanisms in iOS, we successfully injected arbitrary software into current-generation Apple devices running the latest operating system (OS) software.

The researchers have not said whether the charger is a modified version of Apple’s standard equipment or entirely new.

Are you careful about the apps you download?

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