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Cybersecurity Europe Insights

Repair Outlet Publishes The State of App Security Report

A recent study by phone refurbishers Repair Outlet has uncovered the hidden cost of finance app hacking – up to £1M per month.

A 2017 study found that there were over 2,200 attempted cyber attacks every day, boiling down to about 1 every 39 seconds. Given how much cybercrime has expanded since then, it’s probably safe to say this figure is now much higher.

With most of our data being held online, from intimate details shared on social media meant only for our followers’ eyes to highly sensitive bank details we can access using face ID, our lives are ever more vulnerable to break-in.

According to Action Fraud, reported social media and email hacking costs UK citizens £2.6m a year, or an estimated £186 per hack. This is mainly through fraud due to access to personal information, phishing and even ransom.

This means unreported app hacking could be costing the UK as much as £19m every year, with the global cost potentially reaching over £202m yearly.

Facebook is the most likely app to be hacked, assumedly due to its high volume of users. The potential global monthly cost of Facebook hacking is over £7.5m, far overshadowing the potential £1.6m a month lost in the UK on apps overall.

In addition to the potential monetary cost of hacking, malware infections can sometime result in the need for mobile phone repair or replacement, which can push the cost of the infection up even higher.

Globally, social media hacks are searched over 53,000 times a month, followed by streaming services at 17,900 per month and messaging services with 11,500 searches a month.

Internationally, finance apps are hacked an estimated 5,700 times a month, with PayPal (3,300) Cashapp (1,200) and Venmo (1,000) suffering the most.

When comparing banking apps in the UK, Santander is the most vulnerable with 40 searches per month, followed by HSBC, Nationwide and Monzo with 30 monthly searches each.

However, considering Facebook accounts are hacked up to 3,300 times monthly in the UK, banking apps can still be considered fairly safe.

Most common app hacks

1. Operating system vulnerabilities.

    • Operating system vulnerabilities occur in two ways: your apps are out of date or the vulnerabilities are built-in. To avoid the first, it’s a good idea to keep all your apps updated regularly so any vulnerabilities identified can be patched properly before hackers can exploit them. This is especially important for second-hand and refurbished phones as many manufacturers stop providing security updates to their older models, so owners need to be particularly vigilant.
    • The second is the responsibility of the app creators, which is why it’s advised you only download apps from trusted sources and do your research first if in doubt. However, a recent study found that apps on the Google play store have an average of 39 security vulnerabilities each, including popular banking and payment apps.

2. Phishing emails/texts

    • Often, scammers will send texts or emails pretending to be from the security team at apps like Facebook, Google and YouTube. These emails or texts are used to convince you to give away your login details so the hacker can then access your apps.
    • In addition to losing access to your apps, this can cause further security vulnerabilities as many people reuse passwords and letting your login details for one account fall into the hands of a hacker could lead to more break-ins elsewhere.
    • The best way to avoid this is to only answer emails and texts from trusted senders and never tap links from these senders. If you need to, copy and paste the URL or search for the security access via a search engine for precaution.

3. Malware

  • Most commonly, insecure or untrustworthy apps are the cause of malware finding its way onto your phone. Hackers place malware in the code of their apps to be downloaded to your phone along with the app, thus allowing them access to the data on your phone.
  • Malware can be hard to detect as it typically doesn’t cause notifications or alerts but can be dangerous if it provides the hackers with surveillance over how you use other apps on your phone. You may find that your phone is more sluggish when opening apps or using the internet or your data is drained faster than usual.
  • The best way to avoid malware is to only download trustworthy apps or download a cybersecurity app for your phone to do regular checks for harmful code.


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