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3 On Your Side: Hackers Attacking Cell Phones And Tablets

jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If you use a smartphone or tablet, listen up! More and more people are having their mobile devices hacked by viruses, malware and things you’ve probably never heard of. 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan reveals how it’s done so that you don’t become a victim.

Leanne Karlgut had no idea her phone had a virus, until one day in the middle of a quiet auditorium.

“My phone started singing a song, and the song had a couple curse words in it. And I — there’s no way I could make it stop,” Karlgut explains.

Cyber criminals are attacking phones and tablets at an alarming rate. McAfee Labs says there was a 600 percent increase in the number of mobile malware threats it found from 2011 to 2012.

George Waller, a security expert with Strikeforce Technologies, estimates nearly fifty percent of all smartphones and tablets are already infected.

“As more people are using the phone for both their personal use and their business use, the malware writers are viewing that as a good spot to hit you,” Waller says.

Click on a poison link or text or download an infected app, and your phone is zapped with malware and you may not even know it. Some viruses install key logging software to record every text or email you write and every password you enter. According to Waller, “It could get your banking credentials and essentially go into your bank, act as you.”

With mobile ransom-ware, malware hijacks and freezes your device until you pay a fee. And if you use a mobile wallet app, some experts worry that when you tap and pay using your phone, criminals could intercept that short wave radio chip transmission, which sends your credit card info from the phone to a retailer.

To protect yourself, be sure to download updates for apps and your device operating system, and never click on any links that look suspicious.

That’s how Leanne’s phone picked up that embarrassing virus. In fact, she says, “I had no idea that phones could get viruses.”

Experts say your wireless device could be infected with malware if it runs very slowly, or if there’s a tremendous amount of texts being sent from your phone or airtime being used. Your best bet? Contact your wireless provider if you think you have a problem.

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