Smartphones, tablets latest targets in hacking, viruses

April 5, 2013 8:31:06 PM PDT
If you use a smart phone or tablet, listen up: Security experts say there's an explosion in the number of criminal hack attacks on mobile devices. Now you have to look out for viruses, malware and new schemes you've never heard of.

Leanne Karlgut had no idea her phone had a virus, until one day in the middle of a quiet auditorium.

"My phone started singing a song and the song had a couple curse words in it and there's no way I could make it stop," Karlgut said.

Our investigation found cyber criminals are trying to attack our phones and tablets at an alarming rate. McAfee labs tells us there was a 600 percent increase in the number of mobile malware threats it found from 2011 to 2012.

Cyber security expert George Waller estimates nearly 50 percent of all smartphones and tablets are already infected.

"As more people are using the phone for both their personal use and their business use, the malware writers are viewing that as a good, a good spot to hit you," Waller said.

Not just that, but people often have no idea they've been hit. Click on a poison link, text, or download an infected app and your phone is zapped with malware.

Some vicious viruses install "key logging software," which allows crooks to record every text or email you write, and every password you enter.

"It could get your banking credentials and essentially go into your bank, act as you," Waller said.

Another prediction for 2013: An increase in mobile ransom-ware. That's where the malware hijacks and freezes your device until you pay a fee.

If you use a mobile wallet app, some experts worry when you "tap and pay" using your phone, criminals could intercept that short-wave radio chip transmission.

There's also a way for crooks to program a smartphone to pick up chip signals directly from a credit card and you wouldn't have a clue.

"The industry is working incredibly hard to try to protect both its networks and its own users," said Joe Carpenter with CTIA - The Wireless Trade Association.

CTIA says you can stay ahead of the bad guys by downloading updates for apps and your device's operating system and never clicking on any links that look suspicious.

Experts say your wireless device could be infected with malware if it runs very slowly, or if there's a tremendous amount of texts being sent from your phone or airtime being used.

Contact your wireless provider if you think you have a problem.

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