Few adults would willingly invite strangers into their bedroom while they are getting undressed or into their bathroom while they are on the toilet, yet that is exactly what they are risking by failing to grasp the threat posed by cyber criminals hijacking their mobile device camera, a new study[i] by Kaspersky Lab reveals.
Up to 90 percent of UK adults now own a smartphone[ii], yet two-thirds are unaware that cybercriminals can send malicious software to take over people’s mobile device cameras, unauthorized access these attackers can use to steal private, stored images and take some very interesting ones of their own. This includes not just deeply invasive and compromising pictures of the phone’s owner, but it also involves snapshots of credit cards and pictures of young children playing with, or getting dressed in the presence of, the device.
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The study found that an overwhelming 83 percent of people never turn their mobile phone off unless the battery dies, and 44 percent say the same about their tablets. This leads to people doing very private things in the presence of their mobile devices. Over half (57 percent) of adults have sex within sight of a camera-enabled mobile phone, tablet, laptop or PC. A third (37 percent) get undressed in the presence of such devices, and 44 percent take them into the toilet or the bath (29 percent). Also, a third (30 percent) leave sensitive documents or payment cards near their devices, while a quarter (26 percent) freely allow their children to play with them.
Even more worrying, the minority of consumers who do understand and take action to reduce the risks – just a fifth of mobile phone (20 percent) and laptop (21 percent) users, and 15 percent of tablet users – often resort to measures that are far from helpful. For example, it is impossible to disconnect the camera function in mobile phones and tablets, so just closing the icon or otherwise attempting to disable it (40 percent) is never enough. Physically covering the camera with blue tack or a sticker, the second favourite option at 36 percent, does work, but many consumers don’t realise that many phones now have camera lenses on both sides.
Commenting on the research, Kaspersky Lab’s Senior Security Researcher David Emm said, “We think of our mobile devices as our window on the world, not realising that for cybercriminals it could be their window into ours. Hacking into a device’s camera offers those with malicious intent access to our images, our most intimate moments, our identities – and the people we want most to protect, such as our children.”
The study shows that consumers are often confused about the risk and unsure what to do even when they do understand. Just one in three of those who had done anything to secure their device camera had opted for security software, the only really effective solution. No-one would leave their home this insecure – eight in ten households in England and Wales have double locks or deadlocks on doors and locks on their windows[iii]. So why would we leave our devices unprotected?
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About Kaspersky Lab
Kaspersky Lab is the world’s largest privately held vendor of endpoint protection solutions. The company is ranked among the world’s top four vendors of security solutions for endpoint users*. Throughout its more than 16-year history Kaspersky Lab has remained an innovator in IT security and provides effective digital security solutions for large enterprises, SMBs and consumers. Kaspersky Lab, with its holding company registered in the United Kingdom, currently operates in almost 200 countries and territories across the globe, providing protection for over 300 million users worldwide. Learn more at www.kaspersky.com.
[i] One Poll for Kaspersky Lab, surveyed 2,000 UK adults aged 18-44. The research took place 14-18 August, 2014.