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. 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.
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.
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.
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. Cybersecurity researchers discovered “the volume of malicious [FluBot] SMS messages can number in the tens of thousands per hour.”
2020 will double from 114,702 in 2018 to 241,342 in 2020. As the holiday shopping season begins, research shows that more than 55% of shoppers use their mobile devices to make at least one purchase. It is important that device owners take precautions to protect themselves from attacks. NCSC recommends that users take basic protective measures such as: B. Back up your device frequently, use virus detection software, and “install new apps on your device from the manufacturer’s recommended app store.”
Hackers are even capitalizing on the popularity of the hit television show “Squid Game” with a new wave of cybercrimes targeting mobile devices using malware hidden in apps related to the show. Mobile devices are now the primary access point for the internet, with 61% of all website visits in the United States in 2020 coming on mobile devices, cementing the trend that only became the majority in 2019. This is reflected in the increasing focus on cyber-attacks on mobile devices, with complaints of phishing and smishing attacks (emails or SMS text messages containing malicious links) to the FBI reaching 2019.
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