Children and young people are more vulnerable than ever to mobile threats

McAfee Corp presents its Consumer Mindset Survey: Mobile Report and Consumer Mobile Threat Report ahead of Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona. The studies show how large the generational gap is when it comes to how secure mobile devices are perceived and how vulnerable consumers are to threats on those devices.

“Effective protection is a personal right of consumers, whether they are families or individuals,” said Gagan Singh, McAfee’s executive vice president, chief product and revenue officer. “The common denominator of these two studies is that consumers value the protection of their data, their privacy and their identity. As the use of mobile devices increases rapidly, we must remember that a mobile device is a connected device just like a computer. That’s why McAfee Labs’ world-class engineering team works to identify and protect consumers from new and emerging global threats across all ages and connected devices.”

McAfee Consumer Mindset Survey: Mobile Report 2022

As part of its comprehensive Connected Families Research 2022 study, McAfee surveyed parents and children about their use of mobile devices. The aim was to find out how children use mobile devices and where their actual behavior differs from their parents’ assumptions. The study opens up a new area of ​​research in the industry by including the crucial perspective of children. The most important results of the study show:

    • Children and adults face the same risks: while consumers know they need to protect their desktops and laptops, awareness of the need to protect mobile devices hasn’t kept pace.
        • Children and young people worldwide have greater trust in mobile devices. Most children (59%) believe that a new mobile phone is more secure than a new computer, while parents are more divided (49%).
            • In Germany, a large proportion of children (47%) believe that a new mobile phone is more secure than a new computer, while only 36% of parents think so.
        • Children’s mobile devices are less well protected around the world. While the majority of parents (56%) use passwords to protect mobile devices, only 41% of children and teens do. A big security risk.
            • In Germany, 58% of parents use passwords to protect their mobile devices, while only 44% of children and young people do so.
        • Children are exposed to the same risks as adults. More than a tenth of families worldwide report having their children’s financial information stolen, and 15% report an attempt to steal a child’s online account or identity.
    • What parents should prepare for: Many parents are paying more attention to the protection of children’s and teens’ mobile devices and are taking appropriate measures. In detail:
        • In Germany, 29% of parents of boys aged 10 to 14 install parental control software on their child’s mobile devices, compared to 33% of girls of the same age.
        • Boys are more likely to report cyberbullying and online threats than girls of the same age, a pattern common to all threats studied, as seen below:
            • In Germany, 9% of boys between the ages of 10 and 14 reported a threat to one of their online accounts compared to 7% of girls of the same age.
            • In Germany, 6% of boys between the ages of 10 and 14 reported cyberbullying. Most reports of cyberbullying in the countries surveyed are in the US (28%), India (21%) and the UK (19%).
            • In Germany, 7% of girls between the ages of 10 and 14 reported cyberbullying. Most reports of cyberbullying in the countries surveyed are recorded in the US (22%), India (20%) and the UK (18%).
        • In addition, significant gender differences have been identified in social media use in Germany, and girls report using almost all mobile activities to a greater extent than boys:
            • Globally, 59% of girls of all ages use social media, compared to 53% of boys.
            • In Germany, 62% of girls between the ages of 10 and 14 stream music, compared to 54% of boys.
            • In Germany, 30% of girls shop online, compared to 19% of boys.
            • An exception in Germany is that 56% of boys between the ages of 10 and 14 play with their mobile phones, compared to 50% of girls of the same age.

          Gender distribution and the age of mobile empowerment: While nearly all families rely on mobile devices, the way they use these devices varies greatly by gender and age.

            • The research shows that mobile device use increases significantly by the age of 15 worldwide and remains constant into adulthood.
            • In many of the countries surveyed, particularly North America and Europe, girls report using cell phones earlier. In these regions, significantly more girls aged 10 to 14 use mobile devices than boys of the same age.

McAfee Consumer Mobile Threats Report 2022

The Consumer Mobile Threat Report highlights some of the latest methods cybercriminals are using to trick or defraud consumers in increasing numbers.

The main threats detailed in the report include:

    • Malware smishing: Mobile smishing attacks (SMS + phishing) use personalized greetings in text messages pretending to be from legitimate organizations to appear more credible. These messages often link to websites with authentic logos, icons, and other graphics, and prompt the user to enter personal information or download an app. Once downloaded, the apps steal personal information, contacts, and SMS messages from consumers’ devices. With the stolen contacts, the activities of the cyber criminals are amplified and their network of targets is expanded.
    • Gamers get ripped off: Cheat codes and hacking apps are a popular way to unlock additional features in mobile games. Criminals take advantage of this by adding malicious code to existing open-source apps and promoting them through legitimate messaging channels. Once installed, the malware steals social media and gaming account credentials.
    • Crypto Mining Scams: Cryptocurrencies are particularly vulnerable to mobile device attacks. Cyber ​​criminals provide fake apps that promise to mine coins in the cloud and pay out subscribers for a monthly fee. The catch is that while the apps collect monthly subscription fees, they don’t mine for coins or increase the value of the crypto wallet.
    • Fake apps: Cyber ​​criminals use personal information and high-quality graphics to make their malware look like legitimate apps. Hundreds of these apps promise features like mobile games or photo editing and are backed by fake five-star reviews. Once installed, the apps ask for the user’s phone number and verification PIN and use them to sign up for premium SMS services that forward payments to the criminals.

What can consumers do to protect themselves?

    • A critical eye and a degree of skepticism are essential to protecting yourself, your family and your growing collection of digital devices.
    • Gamers should be careful when installing game hacks, especially if they require root privileges. These permissions give cybercriminals the ability to take control of devices.
    • Mobile security solutions continue to evolve and adapt to these types of threats, adding or improving valuable features such as phishing and fraud alerts, identity protection, and active notification when personal information is found on the dark web.