McAfee, a security technology company best known for its anti-virus software, recently issued a warning about the potential for devices with Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities to be infected with malware. The ease of transferring information with NFC—a simple tap—means that malware could also be easily transferred between smartphones. McAfee warns that as NFC-enabled devices become increasingly common, they will also become more tempting to cybercriminals.
Luis Blando, McAfee’s vice president of mobile product development, explains, “Cybercriminals are exhibiting greater levels of determination and sophistication leading to more destructive, multi-faceted hacks that are harder to spot, and thus warrant a greater degree of security and vigilance.”
Mobile payments via NFC also present a potential security problem. Imagine this: a carefree customer pays for a purchase with his phone, unaware that the phone was recently infected with malware. Through that payment, the cybercriminal responsible for the malware collects his victim’s mobile wallet payment information and then goes on a spending spree all his own. Basically, what we’re looking are the newest forms of identity theft and computer viruses. They may sound scary, but their existence is a sad but unavoidable progression. There’s no need for business owners using NFC to panic—but there is a need for vigilance, and for protection.
McAfee is not the first to acknowledge this potential security threat. The New York State Office of Cyber Security warns, “Risks with using NFC and Bluetooth include eavesdropping, through which the cyber criminal can intercept data transmissions, such as credit card numbers. NFC also has the risk of transferring viruses or other malware from one NFC-enabled device to another.” The Office of Cyber Security offers a slew of advice regarding protecting one’s smartphone, including advising that people disable their phones’ NFC capabilities when they’re not needed. The office also advises the use of security software—and there is security software available for smartphones.
McAfee, for example, offers mobile security software, which can support an array of devices, including iPhones, iPads, Android and Blackberry. And if this warning is any indication, they are likely to increase their focus on offering protection for NFC-enabled devices. That’s how cybercrime works after all—as the criminals get sneakier, better protection is developed, requiring the criminals to get even sneakier, requiring security to improve, and on and on. Such is the circle of cyber-life.
You can find the full text of McAfee’s warning here.
Article by Alex Mehler
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