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November 29, 2011

Cyber threats appearing where even savvy users don’t expect

An EC cyber security expert believes cyber attackers are getting more sophisticated, in ways that even savvy web users may not expect.

By Allan Swann

Doctor Stephan Lechner, director general of the Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, in a lecture to the Cyber Security Summit says that he believes Cybersecurity has finally ‘gone political’. By that he means the problem has enough understanding in the mainstream for it to become political capital.

This is a good thing as Cyber security systems around the world will be getting more attention, both in the public and private sector, but it also means that cyber criminals have had to become more devious to deliver their cyber-payloads.

One of the examples he believes is becoming more widespread is the ‘no-use app’, basically something that is downloaded from an app store – it doesn’t appear to do anything and the customer simply deletes it and moves on – without even realising it has just dropped its payload. Too many consumers assume that smartphones are immune to viruses, he says.

He compares the drivers of malware, viruses and cyber threats as following Moore’s law – every 18 months the threats double. The newest threat he has picked up on has come through loopholes in finger print readers and even smartphone barcode readers have lead visitors into trouble.

The biggest problem is education. Dr Lechner believes that online safety should be taught at the sometime as computer literacy itself – even if that means teaching 5 year olds about cyber safety.

"The five year olds in the classrooms now, are your future 14 year old hackers. It should be mandatory for children to learn cyber security as they learn how to use ICT," he said.

He even goes so far as to believe that technology teachers need to be kept up to speed in this space as well, as often students are more tech savvy than their teachers.

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He also believes that web savvy consumers have become too confident for their own good, often clicking ‘OK’ in pop up boxes that may look like part of the operating system without even thinking. Ironically, as technology gets more simplified on the surface (and more complicated in the back end), security awareness amongst users falls.



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