Phones expose us to bank fraud threat

Beware banking on your mobile phone. Security experts warn there's a new cyber threat that could lead fraudsters directly to your account.

So what is this threat, and what can you do about it?

The problem is a 'trojan horse' programme called Zeus (named after the god pictured). It has tended to infect computers in the past, but according to a report in the Guardian, in the last two weeks a new strain has emerged, called Zitmo (Zeus in the mobile) which attacks android phones, and uses them to devastate internet bank accounts.

How does it work?
The programme can get in if you click on a link, such as a url in Twitter or a vCard. Alternatively it could be planted if you use a wifi service in a cafe or hotel. Gangs will set up a fake wifi gateway, which phones will automatically direct themselves to, letting the criminals plant whatever viruses they like.

Once the malware is uploaded, users have no idea they are infected, but the programme is watching everything you do. And while this is bad enough on home computers, some experts say it's a nightmare on the phones, as their security may not be up to the same standard. To make matters worse, they warn that an anti-virus programme for your phone may not be the answer, as the phone handsets may still let hackers in.

One internet security firm, Trusteer, told the Guardian that within the next year or two more than one in 20 android phones, iPads and iPhones could become infected.

Other security experts say that this is just the beginning of the problem, and that more sophisticated forms of the virus are already available. These will record conversations and send them direct to a hacker's computer.

So how can you protect yourself?
  • Beware of attachments - only open attachments from people you know, and check with them first before you open it
  • Stay away from public wifi, especially if you are planning on using internet banking
  • Don't 'jailbreak' your iphone or ipad to remove the restrictions it imposes as this will open you up to more risks
  • Keep on top of updates
  • Set a secure PIN in case your phone goes astray
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