Putting a password on your smartphone is a simple step to reduce personal information or identity being stolen by cyber criminals, Bay technology experts say.
This week is Cyber Security Awareness Week and local technology experts have warned about the risk of smartphone cyber threats, following the release of a report saying mobile malware had increased by 58 per cent last year, with 32 per cent of these threats attempting to steal information.
According to Symantec's latest cyber-crime report, there was a 42 per cent increase in targeted cyber attacks in 2012, with manufacturing and finance, insurance and real estate being the top two industries attacked by cyber criminals.
Local expert Paul Logan, of Need a Nerd, said the easiest way to protect personal information was to have a password. Smartphone thefts were becoming more prevalent and a password made it more difficult for thieves to access personal information.
Downloading an application to track your phone was another tool that could help keep your smartphone safe, said Rodney Colvin, of Need a Nerd. He said there were many free options available for iPhone and android users, including the application called Prey, which pinpoints the location of the device using WiFi and GPS, activates the front camera to take a photograph of the person using the phone, can activate an alarm and can remotely lock the device or delete information from it.
Last year, 16 per cent of New Zealand adults fell victim to social or mobile cyber crime.
Chris Wilkins, of Geeks on Wheels, said hackers could use personal information to steal your identity or your bank account details.
According to the report, January saw the largest number of identities stolen worldwide last year, due to one breach of more than 24 million identities, while the numbers for the rest of the year mostly fluctuated between one and 12 million identities stolen per month.
Mr Wilkins said android phones were more susceptible to hacking than iPhones or iPads, as many of the applications were open-sourced, whereas Apple rigorously tested the applications before being released onto the market.
"It's very much like a seatbelt approach where we appear to be winning the battle with people protecting their home PCs but it seems people are still a bit naive and do not understand the importance of protecting their smartphone."
People should also be aware of logging into free WiFi areas, as people could use devices using bluetooth and steal information, he said.
Having a strong password was one way of minimising the risk, and ways to create a strong password included switching simple letters with symbols, for example a with @ and s with $.
Meanwhile, to coincide with Cyber Security Awareness Week, Norton has released mobile insights in its annual cybercrime report. It found Kiwis were becoming increasingly dependent on mobile devices, with 30 per cent of users admitting they could never give up their phones and tablet computers.
And 59 per cent of people who access the internet on their mobile device do not use secure payment methods. But 40 per cent said they felt safe making purchases.
Forty-one per cent have had a mobile device lost or stolen but only 9 per cent reported wiping or locking their mobile phone after it went missing - an option available for many smartphones.
Of those who lost their phones, the biggest concerns were someone accessing their contacts, making lots of calls and accruing a large bill, and taking personal details and pretending to be them.
How to reduce your chances of being targeted by cyber criminals:
Have a strong password - this can be done by replacing letters with symbols eg a with @ symbol and s with $ symbol
Ensure your phone is locked - even a four-digit code is effective
Be mindful of where you carry your smartphone - in your inside pocket is better than your back pocket
Source: Geeks on Wheels
By the numbers
42 per cent increase in targeted attacks in 2012
31 per cent of all targeted attacks aimed at businesses with less than 250 employees
32 per cent of all mobile threats steal information
The number of phishing sites spoofing social networking sites increased 125 per cent
5291 new vulnerabilities discovered in 2012, 415 of them on mobile operating systems.