MANAMA: Bahrain saw almost 5,000 cyberattacks on smartphones in 2020 with an increase during quarantine, according to Kaspersky, a multinational cybersecurity and anti-virus provider.

Reviewing the statistic of cyberattacks on smartphone users, researchers from the firm saw that in the period from January to June 2020, the number of malicious attacks on mobile users reached 4,940 in the kingdom.

To compare, the figure for Kuwait was 20,000, 15,000 for Oman and 12,000 for Qatar.

“While 1,000 attacks on mobile users every month may seem to be a big number for a relatively small country, it is great to see that smartphone and tablet users in Bahrain remained vigilant during the crisis and did not fall for scammers’ tricks,” said Victor Chebyshev, security expert at Kaspersky.

The implementation of quarantine measures would account for approximately 500-1,000 attacks monthly across the region.

However, the overall dynamics show that quarantine did not have a particular influence on the Bahrain threat landscape.

This can be explained by the fact that mobile platforms were initially made to be independent from the physical location of the user and are adjustable to different lifestyles, said the firm.

“Every system has a vulnerability, but human factor is often considered the greatest of them, so seeing that there is no increase in attack that reached users and were blocked during a shift to work from home and global pandemic is reassuring,” explained Mr Chebyshev.

However, users still need to be vigilant as the role of smartphones in business processes and day-to-day life is growing rapidly.

According to Bahrain-based ICT expert and president of Artificial Intelligence Society Dr Jassim Haji, the sudden increase in remote work that many companies have instituted over the past couple of months introduced a new set of cybersecurity risks to organisations.

He said communication that is entirely online makes it much easier for bad actors to use deception to gain access to systems.

This type of hack, generally known as social engineering, relies on con artistry rather than code.

Cybercriminals typically try to take advantage of crises such as the coronavirus outbreak or other events with mass media coverage to spread malware for a variety of reasons, primarily for short- or long-term gains, explained Dr Haji.

“There are malicious applications, masquerading as innocuous coronavirus apps, that are designed to take control of Android devices. Once the malicious application is installed, a hacker takes intrusive control of the device via a remote shell, accessing a person’s calls, SMSes, calendar, files, contacts, microphone and camera, in addition to write, add and send privileges.

The malicious applications are not found on Google Play Store, but are discovered in new coronavirus-related domains, which researchers believed to be created specifically for the intention to deceive the masses by leveraging the fear around Covid-19.

“Most frightening is the speed and ease of which these device takeover apps can be created, and who can create it.

The origins of some of the malicious applications were crafted via Metasploit, a free-penetration testing framework that makes hacking simple. Using Metasploit, anyone with basic computer knowledge can craft the same malicious applications in just 15 minutes,” warned Dr Haji.

He has advised that smartphone users be cautious while signing into apps with social network accounts.

“Some apps are integrated with social networking sites and the app can collect information from your social network account and vice versa.”

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