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FBI warns of new cyber threats to PC, smartphones users

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By TECHNOLOGY TIMES Reporter

Lagos. June 1, 2013: The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has alerted of new threats from cyber criminals targeting PC and Smartphones users prescribing antidotes to the growing crime. 

FBI warns of new cyber threats to PC, smartphones users
FBI says that smartphone users should be aware of applications that enable geo-location. The application will track the user’s location anywhere. This application can be used for marketing, but can also be used by malicious actors, raising concerns of assisting a possible stalker and/or burglaries, the U.S. law enforcement agency says underscoring the growing global problem of cyber crime

Nigeria, home to over 100 million phone connections and other tech products and services, is part of a global community of mobile phone users that are potential victims of the growing incidence of global cyber criminal activities perpetrated by individual or syndicates using various technology tools.

FBI said at the weekend that it has seen an increase in cyber criminals who use online photo-sharing programs to perpetrate scams and harm victims’ computers.

These criminals advertise vehicles online but will not provide pictures in the advertisement. They will send photos on request. Sometimes the photo is a single file sent as an e-mail attachment, and sometimes the victim receives a link to an online photo gallery, the law enforcement agency said.

The photos can and often contain malicious software that infects the victim’s computer, directing the user to fake websites that look nearly identical to the real sites where the original advertisement was seen.

The cyber criminals run all aspects of these fake websites, including “tech support” or “live chat support” and any “recommended” escrow services. After the victim agrees to purchase the item and makes the payment, the criminals stop responding to correspondence. The victims never receive any merchandise, FBI warns.

While warning consumers to protect themselves when shopping online, FBI also warns of some precaustions to take including for online shopping safety:

* Be cautious if you lose an auction on an auction site but the seller contacts you later saying the original bidder fell through.

* Make sure websites are secure and authenticated before you purchase an item online. Use only well-known escrow services.

* Research to determine if a car dealership is real and how long it has been in business.

* Be wary if the price for the item you’d like to buy is severely undervalued; if it is, the item is likely fraudulent.

* Scan files before downloading them to your computer.

* Keep your computer software, including the operating system, updated with the latest patches.

* Ensure your anti-virus software and firewalls are current—they can help prevent malware infections.

In a related development, FBI also alerts that smartphone users should be aware of malware targeting mobile devices.

It has there is growing incidence of various malware attacking Android operating systems for mobile devices.

Some of the latest known versions of this type of malware are Loozfon and FinFisher, the FBI says.

Loozfon is an information-stealing piece of malware. Criminals use different variants to lure the victims. One version is a work-at-home opportunity that promises a profitable payday just for sending out e-mail. A link within these advertisements leads to a website that is designed to push Loozfon on the user’s device. The malicious application steals contact details from the user’s address book and the infected device’s phone number.

On the other hand, FinFisher is a spyware capable of taking over the components of a mobile device. When installed the mobile device can be remotely controlled and monitored no matter where the target is located. FinFisher can be easily transmitted to a smartphone when the user visits a specific web link or opens a text message masquerading as a system update.

Loozfon and FinFisher are just two examples of malware used by criminals to lure users into compromising their devices, FBI warns urging smartphone users to take the following precautionary measures to protect their mobile devices:

* When purchasing a smartphone, know the features of the device, including the default settings. Turn off features of the device not needed to minimize the attack surface of the device. 

FBI safety tip to combat threat: Use the same precautions on your mobile phone as you would on your computer when using the Internet
FBI safety tip to combat threat: Use the same precautions on your mobile phone as you would on your computer when using the Internet

 

* Depending on the type of phone, the operating system may have encryption available. This can be used to protect the user’s personal data in the case of loss or theft.

* With the growth of the application market for mobile devices, users should look at the reviews of the developer/company who published the application.

* Review and understand the permissions you are giving when you download applications.

* Passcode protect your mobile device. This is the first layer of physical security to protect the contents of the device. In conjunction with the passcode, enable the screen lock feature after a few minutes of inactivity.

* Obtain malware protection for your mobile device. Look for applications that specialize in antivirus or file integrity that helps protect your device from rogue applications and malware.

* Be aware of applications that enable geo-location. The application will track the user’s location anywhere. This application can be used for marketing, but can also be used by malicious actors, raising concerns of assisting a possible stalker and/or burglaries.

* Jailbreak or rooting is used to remove certain restrictions imposed by the device manufacturer or cell phone carrier. This allows the user nearly unregulated control over what programs can be installed and how the device can be used. However, this procedure often involves exploiting significant security vulnerabilities and increases the attack surface of the device. Anytime an application or service runs in “unrestricted” or “system” level within an operation system, it allows any compromise to take full control of the device.

* Do not allow your device to connect to unknown wireless networks. These networks could be rogue access points that capture information passed between your device and a legitimate server.

* If you decide to sell your device or trade it in, make sure you wipe the device (reset it to factory default) to avoid leaving personal data on the device.

* Smartphones require updates to run applications and firmware. If users neglect this, it increases the risk of having their device hacked or compromised.

* Avoid clicking on or otherwise downloading software or links from unknown sources.

* Use the same precautions on your mobile phone as you would on your computer when using the Internet.

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