Scam watch: Data on mobiles, smart TVs and fitness trackers may be targeted by fraudsters

Published by Helen Knapman on 14 March 2017.
Last updated on 14 March 2017

Smart devices, such as mobile phones, TVs, and fitness trackers, which contain huge amounts of personal data, could be targeted by criminals seeking to commit extortion or fraud, a new report warns.

The National Cyber Security Centre and the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) ‘The cyber threat to UK businesses 2016/17’ report looks at cyber attacks that occurred in 2016, such as Yahoo revealing that half a billion accounts had been stolen by hackers, and also warns of future threats.

The report is targeted at businesses, stating that 65% of large UK firms detected a cyber security breach or attack in the past year.

However, it does warn that in 2017, it is likely that so-called ‘ransomware’ will target devices, including smartphones, smart TVs, smart watches, and even fitness trackers containing personal data such as photos and emails.

While this data itself may not be inherently valuable and might not be sold on criminal forums, the device – which hackers may lock - and data will be sufficiently valuable to the victim that they will be willing to pay for it.

The report adds that it’s not yet known whether manufacturers of these devices will provide customer support to assist with unlocking devices and providing advice on whether to pay a ransom.

But it flags that “it is important to highlight that smart devices are still inherently more difficult to attack than computers”, and “incidents may initially be limited to users who download apps from third party app stores”. 

If you’ve been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud - the UK's national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre. Action Fraud can offer live support 24/7, and if appropriate it will report it to the relevant police force or other law enforcement bodies (including the NCA). If you’ve been hit by financial fraud, also contact your bank or lender immediately.

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