Hackers could hold phone and fitness tracker users to ransom


Cyber security experts have issued a warning over the possibility of criminals hacking smartphones, fitness trackers, TVs and smart watches, and then holding the user to ransom over their personal data.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and National Crime Agency (NCA) said in their report that over the last year ransomware has been used more and more, putting users at risk of having their personal information used for fraud and other criminal acts.

Ransomware is a computer bug that renders a device unusable until the owner agrees to pay money for it to be unlocked again, and so smartphones and other devices which contain sensitive files such as photos and emails are likely targets.

With more devices being connected to the internet these days, the number of opportunities presented to cyber criminals increases greatly. An estimated 21 billion devices are expected to be web-connected by 2020, according to analysts, and therefore it is crucial for the public and private sectors to keep developing methods to protect critical services and stave off potential attackers.

“This data may not be inherently valuable, and might not be sold on criminal forums, but the device and data will be sufficiently valuable to the victim that they will be willing to pay for it,” the agencies say in their report.

“Ransomware on connected watches, fitness trackers and 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.”

The NCSC is hosting CyberUK today in Liverpool, a major conference on cyber security, and will publish its report today.