Smartphones: criminal threat

Users of iPhones and other 'smartphones' are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals intent on accessing the significant amounts of data which such devices now store.

Since smartphones are expected to feature prominently on gift lists this Christmas, it has prompted industry experts to advise users to take a number of steps to protect their personal information.

As smartphones have developed, they have become more powerful and can leave users vulnerable to attack from malware and other "phishing" attacks previously associated with PCs and laptops.

Con Mallon, security expert with Symantec, which produces the well-known Norton antivirus software, said that while cybercriminals have still to "fully focus" on smartphones, it is a growing area. "We know that cybercriminals are interested in 'you' and if 'you' are now storing and doing the things that you used to do on your PC, then they will switch their attention to the smartphone," he said.

"We can say that mobile malware can be counted in the hundreds. The issue is really going to come from apps."

Dermot Williams, managing director of IT security firm Threatscape, said people did not realise just how powerful their smartphones now were.

"In the past 10 years, we have gone from using effectively a 'dumb' device for making calls to having what is pretty much a computer in your pocket," he said. "People can be very blasé about typing things into their phone such as their credit card details… If you can hack into 1,000 phones, and 100 of them have financial information and 10 are using credit card details, then it is certainly worth them targeting smartphones. Criminals go where the money is."

Among the key steps which individuals can take to protect themselves are to keep their 'Pin' numbers – and their phone itself – safe, and to be careful what they download.