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Cyber crime a very real threat, warns expert

Smartphone users among targets of technology battle, a Scottish IT expert has claimed. Picture: Getty

Smartphone users among targets of technology battle, a Scottish IT expert has claimed. Picture: Getty

  • by DALE MILLER
 

A LEADING Scottish cyber security expert has warned the risk of becoming a victim of internet crime is escalating for financial institutions and their customers.

Professor Bill Buchanan, head of the Centre for Distributed Computing and Security at Edinburgh Napier University, said dependence on mobile phones had added to privacy risks and left people vulnerable to cyber attacks.

The warning came as thousands of Royal Bank of Scotland customers were left unable to log into their accounts through their mobile phone applications for up to six hours yesterday.

The problem also affected customers of NatWest and 
Ulster Bank, which are part of the RBS group.

Speculation linked the fault to an alleged widespread cyber attack responsible for recent disruption to popular services such as film and television website Netflix.

Prof Buchanan said viral threats of this nature were on the rise in Scotland and internet users had to be particularly wary.

He said: “Our whole lives are dependent on the internet and the infrastructure that it creates. A bank has a very complicated infrastructure using things like servers. It’s very difficult to lock down every one of those servers to make sure they’re secure.

“There’s always a place that someone can go to, to try and attack. It’s like the weakest link in the chain. That one little thing can actually bring down everything else.

“Most banks are very aware of that and manage the risks and hopefully can cope with them.

“There’s money to be made in cyber crime for organised criminal gangs. There’s also IP [intellectual property] theft, which is on the increase.”

Yet-to-be published research carried out by Prof Buchanan has revealed that 62 per cent of Scots spend more than 
three hours a day on the 
internet.

Web usage from mobile phones was equally split between Android and Apple 
operating systems, with a staggering 82 per cent of educators surveyed saying their greatest fear was someone stealing their account or credit card details.

John Howie, senior security director at Microsoft, has previously said unscrupulous nations are developing technology that could shut down a country and throw society into the dark ages “within a month”.

RBS said it was unclear precisely what had caused the mobile banking fault. A spokeswoman said: “All our mobile banking applications are now running normally. We apologise again for the inconvenience caused to our 
customers.”

Prof Buchanan, who said the problem was likely to be a technical glitch given how quickly it had been solved, said: “When you think a bank will have tens of millions of customers all continually making transactions from many different locations, it’s very difficult for that to work 100 per cent of the time, especially on a 24/7 basis.”

dale.miller@edinburghnews.com

Hacker wars caused net jam

SECURITY specialists claim a recent global internet slowdown is the result of the biggest-ever cyber attack of its kind.

A dispute between a spam-fighting group and web-hosting firm has sparked retaliations that affected the wider internet.

Spamhaus, a group based in both London and Geneva, is a non-profit organisation that aims to help block junk emails. The agency black-listed Dutch company Cyberbunker earlier this month and has since alleged that it had been subjected to a massive cyber attack from the firm.

The attackers are believed to have used a tactic known as Distributed Denial of Service [DDoS], which floods the target with traffic like an internet “motorway jam”.

 

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