3 of The Biggest Cyber Threats of 2013 (And How You Can Protect Your Systems from Them)

For as long as there’s been technology, there have been those willing to try and attack it. 2013, sadly, has been no different. That’s why we’re going to take a look at three of the key areas that cyber attackers have focused on in the last year.

biggest virus threats of 2013

Mobile Malware

With smartphones virtually ubiquitous amongst the UK population, it’s unfortunately unsurprising that malware within the mobile market has been on the increase during the last year. Though such attacks only began in 2012, they have grown by a more than reasonable amount.

One of the most common recent scams, which has been dubbed “Toll Fraud”, takes the form of malware that uses the premium SMS or messaging service from the victim’s phone, leading to the creation of a huge bill. By the time that users notice the significant increase in charges, the scammer has already made away with the extra money. According to information from Lookout, 72% of malware detected during 2012 was categorized as being Toll Fraud, and this year has seen no let up in the technique.

Another major red flag for mobile users this year has been the increase in mobile spam. These vary in form quite significantly: in many cases it comes from text messages, but can also take the form of e-mails. These will often contain ‘phishing’ links, which when clicked will lead users into an environment where their data can be obtained by the attacker. Needless to say, it’s important to not respond to any message from someone unknown, and to where possible block messages from anyone not on your approved list so that to avoid yourself from becoming a phishing scam victim.

[Recommended reading: 5 Worst Computer Viruses in History]


A scary title, certainly, and ransomware is a suitably scary prospect. This type of malware quite literally holds data hostage, and forces you to pay money in order to regain control of your computer. Unfortunately, some people are so reliant on their computer that they have no option but to pay up.

Ransomware takes a few different forms. In some cases, it will produce error messages saying that you need to pay for a specific piece of software in order to ‘clean’ the computer’. Other methods are a little bit more devious, with one particular example telling the user that their version of the Windows operating system is invalid, and that they will need to pay for an upgrade. In both cases, the user is forced into paying for something that they already own.

The best way to combat these issues is to avoid opening files that don’t come from trusted sources. Be sure to use a free virus scanner such as AVG before opening any file that you’re unsure about.

[Suggested reading: 10 Myths About Cyber Security]

Social media attacks

Facebook accounts are almost as common today as mobile phones, and are almost as frequently targeted by attackers, to whom social media accounts represent a goldmine of useful information. Scams on social media accounts spread quickly: once one account has been breached, it can then be used to pass the threat on to every profile that’s linked to it in any way, whether through Friends lists, groups or even friends of friends. This can enable scammers to gain access to personal information such as phone numbers, addresses and e-mail addresses. This information can then either be sold to more serious data thieves or used to help access more serious details such as online banking passwords and PIN numbers.

Needless to say, as with the mobile phone issues, it’s important to never reply to any unsolicited messages from anyone that you don’t know. Never ever click on a link you’re uncertain about, too. Finally, be wary of any messages that seem to be from friends, but are written in a manner unlike the one they typically speak in.


Unfortunately, it remains just as important as ever to stay safe digitally. Never open any messages from people you don’t know, and double check any messages that purport to be from legitimate sources.

[Image credit: PresseBox.de flickr, Flickr]


  1. Erik Emanuelli
    • Peter Lee
  2. Aditya Nath Jha
  3. drakes
    • Peter Lee
  4. Linh Pham
  5. Salvatore
    • Peter Lee