With over six billion smart devices being used across the globe, people are increasingly at risk from malware targeting their connected lives. Smart devices like mobile phones, smart television sets, smart watches and all such internet connected devices are equally prone to the kind of cyber attacks that the world has been witnessing since early this year, experts told this reporter. 

Leading antivirus company Kaspersky Lab has detected more than 3500 malwares till May, while in 2016 it had detected 8,526,221 malicious installation packages globally. It had detected more than 1,28,000 mobile banking Trojans and more than two lakh mobile ransomware trojans. 

Kaspersky Lab’s South Asia managing director, Altaf Halde, told The Sunday Guardian, “Smart devices, such as smartwatches, smart TVs, routers, and cameras are connecting to each other and building the growing Internet of Things (IoT) phenomenon, a network of devices equipped with embedded technology that allows them to interact with each other or the external environment. Because of the large number and variety of devices, the IoT has become an attractive target for cybercriminals. By successfully hacking IoT devices, criminals are able to spy on people, blackmail them, and even discreetly make them their partners in crime.” 

According to the Internet Security Threat report, prepared by a leading American software company Symnatec, vulnerability towards smart devices has been increasing every year. There has been 214% rise since 2014 in mobile phones getting vulnerable to cyber security threats, while every year approximately 3,000 new variants of malwares are being pushed into the online space. 

India accounts for 30-35% of the total global mobile malware attacks in the world while Bangladesh topped the list with almost 50% of the attacks being reported, according to Kaspersky report of 2016. 

Altaf Halde further said, “Most of these smart devices are also equally prone to cyber attacks as are our computers because these devices do not get the amount of security features that they deserve. A lot of attacks are seen on old devices which do not get their softwares updated. And smart devices like a fitbit or a smart TV or a webcam does not get their softwares updated. They are set up on pre-set softwares, disabling them to update their softwares to the latest versions.”

Aveek Sen, a cyber security expert based in India, said that people are being prone to cyber attacks on their smart devices because of the lack of knowledge about cyber threat amongst the masses. “After the internet charges in the country dropped sharply, people have started to download anything and everything from the internet. They end up downloading malicious content into their smart devices. The lack of proper cyber education amongst the netizens has made us more vulnerable towards such attacks,” Sen explained.

According to experts, Andriod devices are more prone to attacks than than Apple devices because of the free content environment provided by Andriod on its playstore. The coding of each application uploaded on Apple Store is checked by Apple’s coding team. 

India has been witnessing a sharp rise in the number of cyber crimes. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, as many as 11,592 cybercrime cases were registered in 2015. This was approximately 20.5% more than what was reported the previous year. 

As many as 8,121 persons were arrested during 2015 in relation to cybercrime offences, and this represented a 41.2% increase over such arrests in 2014. The maximum number arrests were made in Uttar Pradesh. 

Pawan Duggal, a well known cyber security expert, told this newspaper that India has not been able to give much importance to cyber security laws. 

“With the increase in the number of internet users we have been compromising a lot on our private sphere. Financial transactions are being carried out through smart devices and there is a possibility of stealing of information by cyber criminals. As a nation we have to put our act together. Our reaction should be proactive in nature in order to tackle cyber security threats,” Duggal said. 

Cyber security experts have said that netizens should show some restraint and should use the Internet with responsibility. “One should be careful as to what they are downloading from the internet, the links they are clicking on and what permissions are they giving to applications they have been downloading. There are many a pplications that ask for permissions to access your phonebooks, messages, as well as camera even when it is unnecessary. This way we are compromising on our private information,” Altaf Halde said.