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A spike in smartphone and tablet-related security threats and the emergence of a new threat to online gaming platforms has raised concerns that online threats are becoming a daily occurrence, Toronto police said Friday.
The increase in mobile and tablet security threats was “pretty big” since the advent of 3DS, according to the department’s cybercrime division, which is responsible for monitoring and tracking cybercrime.
“The level of activity is really big, it’s pretty huge,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Brown, who heads up the division’s cyber crime unit.
“We have been seeing some activity over the last two or three weeks and it’s just kind of crazy.”
Police are now warning users to take extreme measures to keep their phones and tablets safe, including using a password manager and not downloading any apps that have malware.
But there are still some apps that do carry malware, including some games that are available in Canada.
“These apps do contain malware, so it’s not necessarily the worst thing that happens in the world, but it’s still something to be aware of,” Brown said.
Brown said the number of security threats is still relatively small, with only one or two incidents in the past two weeks.
“When you see something that has to do with the phone, that’s something that you should be looking at, not just the app,” he said.
The new threats include a ransomware campaign targeting mobile phone owners in Canada, an attack targeting the popular Twitter app and the creation of a virus called “Safer” that infects computers and is now infecting Apple’s operating system.
The Toronto police Cyber Crimes Unit is working with the Canadian Cybercrime Coordination Centre (CCCC) to better track the spread of these types of threats, said Brown.
While the CCCC does not provide the numbers, the department has reported that its efforts to track down these threats have increased.
“In terms of the threat level, it is still fairly small,” Brown explained.
“What we’re seeing is it’s definitely an increase in activity, but also a rise in activity of the cybercriminals who are using the app to create the malware.”
The CCCCC’s research showed there were nearly 600,000 cases of ransomware and malware in the United States in 2016, a rise of about 25 per cent since 2014.
According to the Toronto Police Department, the number and sophistication of the malware is becoming more prevalent, and is increasingly targeting businesses, universities and law enforcement.
The CCCC also reported the emergence and spread of malware from the 3DS security app in 2017, which was a first for the device.
According in the report, 3DS has since released a new app that is designed to help users keep their device safe from the malicious apps.
“This is a very easy-to-use app that doesn’t require any special knowledge or experience to use and has been tested by a lot of people,” Brown noted.
“It is designed specifically for businesses, schools and law enforcements.”
The new app will be available on the Apple App Store and Google Play in Canada and the United Kingdom next month.