Ransomware Hackers Could Soon Target Smartphones, TVs: UK Cybersecurity Chiefs

A joint report by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the National Crime Agency (NCA) has underlined the risk of hackers targeting internet-connected devices for extortion.

As reported by the BBC, the joint report addresses the ‘aggressive’ growth of cyber crime, particularly due to the threat and menace of ransomware malware. Smartphones, watches , televisions and even fitness trackers could be targeted by hackers to extort ransoms from their owners, according to experts.

More specifically, devices containing personal data that includes photos and videos are more than likely to be targeted, due to the likelihood of owners willing to pay for the data. The NSCS is an offshoot arm of the UK government’s GCHQ, the government’s spy agency much like the CIA of the United States. Opened earlier this year, the NSCS was established to directly address the potential danger faced by Britain’s businesses, industry and infrastructure from cyber attacks.

An excerpt from the report reads:

Ransomware on connected watches, fitness trackers ant TVs will present a challenge to manufacturers, and it is not yet known whether customer support will extend to assisting with unlocking devices and providing advice on whether to pay a ransom.

Meanwhile, it has recently come to light that the CIA had developed the means to target and compromise smartphones and internet-connected devices such as smart televisions. When the government is able to devise methods of compromising smart devices, cybercriminals are unlikely to be far behind. 

By the year 2020, there will be as many as 21 billion internet connected devices that will be put to use by consumers and businesses in the world, according to analysts’ estimates. Cyber attacks will evolve over time as cybercriminals look at new ways furthering their ill-gotten gains.

NCSC technical director Ian Levy underlines the importance of frequently updated software and data backups to a cloud service of offline storage, key defenses against a ransomware attack.

In the event of a compromise and a ransom demand, the official admitted that there are differing views on the whether or not to pay up the ransom. However, he added that users should realize they are paying a criminal.

NCSC chief executive Ciaran Martin added:

Cyber attacks will continue to evolve, which is why the public and private sectors must continue to work at pace to deliver real-world outcomes and ground-breaking innovation to reduce the threat to critical services and to deter would-be attackers.

While the report isn’t yet public, it will be published on Tuesday during a cybersecurity conference hosted by the NCSC in Liverpool.

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