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Technology must embrace security by design

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Cybercriminals are getting more and more adept at exploiting the latest trend or issue of high public interest to spread malware and steal personal data from unsuspecting users. Whether it`s an app related to your favorite TV show, government health updates about COVID or tracking missed package deliveries, the result is too often the same: infected devices leading to fraud or outright theft. Basic cybersecurity hygiene is the key to protecting your devices against the most common types of malware, but we also need security built into technology to prevent these sophisticated cyberattacks.

With the prevalence of mobile devices in today`s world, that means that, as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recommends, “users should avoid — and enterprises should prohibit on their devices — sideloading of apps and the use of unauthorized app stores.” The pandemic has been a boon to cybercriminals, taking “advantage of an opportunity to profit from our dependence on technology to go on an internet crime spree,” said Paul Abbate, deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Secret Service is certainly best known for protecting the president. But its other primary mission is to safeguard the nation`s financial infrastructure and payment systems to preserve the integrity of the economy from a wide range of financial and electronic crimes, including U.S. counterfeit currency, bank and financial institution fraud, illicit financing operations, identity theft, access device fraud and cybercrimes.

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The FBI`s Internet Crime Complaint Center registered 791,790 complaints in 2020, nearly double the previous year`s total and the largest year-over-year increase ever recorded. One particularly insidious example was text messages that encouraged users to download an app to make vaccine appointments but then sent malware to every device in that user`s contacts that could steal personal data or banking information.

Cybersecurity researchers have found that “the volume of malicious [FluBot] SMS messages can reach tens of thousands per hour.” Hackers have capitalized on the popularity of the hit TV show “His Game of Squid” with a new wave of cybercriminals that target mobile his devices and use malware hidden in apps related to the show. Mobile devices are now the primary access point to the internet, with 61% of his visits to all his websites in the US coming from mobile devices in 2020, a majority in 2019.

Earlier this year, the U.K.`s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) alerted the public to a new form of malware that induced a user to click on a link to track a supposedly missed package delivery, a common occurrence during the pandemic. The link downloaded a malware app, called FluBot, which could then compromise a user`s bank and other financial account details.

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It’s a trend that’s just getting stronger. This is reflected in the increased targeting of mobile devices in cyber-attacks, with complaints of phishing and smishing attacks via email or SMS text messages containing malicious links received by the FBI in 2019. That number more than doubled, up from 114,702 in 2015 to 241,342 last year.

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