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Cybercrime to go mobile, social in India, predicts Symantec

Cybercriminals are constantly changing their tactics to target both these fast-growing platforms, where consumers are less aware of security risks

K Rajani Kanth  |  Hyderabad 

With over 137 million Internet users in India, 7 out of 10 users access Internet through mobile. Additionally, India grew its social media user base from 38 million in 2011 to 60 million in 2012, making both mobile and social media platforms a preferred site for cybercrime attacks, Nasdaq-listed Symantec Corporation’s Norton Cybercrime Report 2012.

Cybercriminals are constantly changing their tactics to target both these fast-growing platforms where consumers are less aware of security risks. This fast-paced change has impacted individuals with loss of data, identities and finances to name a few. According to the report, it is estimated that more than 42 million people fell victim to cybercrime in the past 12 months in India, suffering approximately $$8 billion in direct financial losses.

“Many of us at Symantec and Norton have been putting our heads together to predict some of what we can expect to see in 2013. Of the predictions we have come up with, I want to draw your attention in particular to two –– the likelihood that cyber terrorism will get highly personal as attacks focus on individuals or minority groups and the possibility that new electronic payment methods could be vulnerable to hacks and breaches,” David Hall, regional consumer product marketing manager (Asia-Pacific), Norton by Symantec, said in a release on Monday.

While these predictions are based on what is seen today, they also reflect where things are going based on years of expertise, understanding of threat evolution, and experience in previous cyber security trends, he added.

The report says that conflicts between nations, organisations and individuals will play a key role in the cyber world. “In 2013, we will see the cyber equivalent of saber rattling, where nation states, organisations and even groups of individuals will use cyber attacks to show their strength and ‘send a message’. Additionally, we expect more targeted attacks on individuals and non-government organisations such as supporters of political issues and members of minority groups in conflict,” Hall said.

Adding to the insanity will be madware (or mobile adware), a nuisance that disrupts the user experience and can potentially expose location details, contact information and device identifiers to cybercriminals. Madware, which sneaks onto a user device when they download an app, often sends pop-up alerts to the notification bar, adds icons, changes browser settings and gathers personal information.

“In just the past nine months, the number of apps including the most aggressive forms of madware has increased by 210%. Because location and device information can be legitimately collected by advertising networks, it helps them target users with appropriate advertising and we expect increased use in madware as more companies seek to drive revenue growth through mobile ads. This includes a more aggressive and potentially malicious approach towards the monetisation of ‘free’ mobile apps, the report said.

Norton by Symantec also predicts that attackers will go where users go, and this continues to be to mobile devices and the cloud. It should come as no surprise that mobile platforms and cloud services will be likely targets for attacks and breaches in 2013.

The rapid rise of Android malware in 2012 confirms this. As users add applications to their phones they will pick up malware. Some mobile malware duplicates old threats like stealing information from devices, the report said.

According to Norton Cybercrime Report 2012, in India 31% of mobile users have received unsolicited SMS text asking them to call back an unknown number or click on an embedded link. To exacerbate the problem, much of this mobile Internet usage is being handled by unsecure mobile applications which bring additional risk to the table. In 2013, you can be sure mobile will continue to advance and thereby create new opportunities for cybercriminals, it added.

First Published: Mon, December 17 2012. 17:35 IST