Info-tech

Beware of the cyber goonda lurking around your smartphone

K. P. M. Basheer Kochi | Updated on June 24, 2013 Published on June 24, 2013

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A teenage boy goes missing from a Kerala town. Days later, his mother comes across a Facebook posting by him. The post shows that it was sent from California, though there was no way the boy could have ever got there.

A cyber crime investigator finds that the post, sent by the tech-savvy ‘kidnapper’ to show that the boy was alive and well, was ‘masked’ to hide the sender’s identity and the place of origin.

He had hacked into the boy’s Facebook account to send the misleading post. Tracing the hacker was pretty much impossible (though, fortunately for the mother, the boy surfaced in Bangalore weeks later).

Until recently, it was rather easy for a trained cyber investigator to trace a hacker — or any cyber criminal — back to his computer, by retracing the route the hacker took to arrive on your computer. But, no longer. For, the ‘cyber goondas’, as Vinod Bhattathirippad, a cyber forensic expert, calls them, have become smarter.

IP SPOOFING

“IP spoofing software that helps to mask the hacker’s identity and origin is now popular in the cyber underworld,” says Bhattathirippad. “It makes our job very, very tough.” The cyber goondas are often a generation ahead of the anti-virus manufacturers and cyber security providers.

With the smartphone becoming commonplace, cyber criminals are now fast relocating to the mobile platform. The attacks on the mobile phones — through virus, malware, hacking, scam and such — are increasing by the day in India .

“A sample study carried out by our company in eight cities shows that more than one lakh smartphones are subjected to cyber attacks every day in India,” points out Ritesh Chopra, country sales manager of the anti-virus manufacturer Norton.

The world over, anti-virus manufacturers and cyber security providers were now focusing on providing solutions to mobile phone attacks.

Driven by the fast growth of smartphone use in the country, Chopra told Business Line, India was now racing to the top the charts of the largest number of spam and virus attacks in the world.

RISKS TO PERSONAL DATA

Most smartphone users store their bank account details and other personal financial data on the mobiles, apart from pictures of loved ones, e-mails, and sensitive data related to work. Unlike in computers and laptops, mobile phone users failed to take security precautions or install anti-virus software.

Chopra pointed out that smartphones had boosted the use of social media, where the risks of ID theft and other attacks were very high.

“You are only as secure as your circle of social network friends,” he said.

GO FOR LOW-END MOBILE

Bhattathirippad, who has specialised in cracking cyber crimes using mobiles, cautions smartphone users to always be vigilant against threats.

“If you have an option, it is better not to use the smartphone at all,” he says. “Go for a low-end ordinary mobile phone.”

Other tips he offers are:

Don’t always stay connected — switch off the Internet as soon as your use is over.

Be very careful while using wi-fi and Bluetooth — somebody could always be snooping.

Install reliable anti-virus and other security software. (But, he also warns that anti-virus companies themselves might send out viruses — to sell more of their anti-virus products!)

Download only those apps which you really need.

basheer.kpm@thehindu.co.in



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Published on June 24, 2013
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