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Global smartphone boom poses huge Internet fraud threat, expert says

LONDON - Rapidly increasing global ownership of smartphones and tablets will expose consumers and governments to much higher risks of Internet fraud and hacking, according to an expert.

Martin Sadler, director of the Cloud and Security Lab at HP in Bristol, England, said the expected rise in the number of electronic devices -- connecting billions more people to the Internet -- would make cyberattacks more likely.

“The vast majority of software we will be using [by 2020] will be riddled with malware,” he warned.

“If you talk about four billion people going online by 2020, a large number of those people are in third world countries where they are looking for easy access to wealth or money – what better source of wealth than online?” Sadler said.

He said Internet crime would become “de-skilled” and added, “What today might be a very sophisticated attack on a nation state could by 2020 be an attack on you as an individual made by people who really earn very little a day – that kind of dollar-a-day threshold.”

“There are whole groups of people who haven’t realized the Internet is an asset and disruption of the Internet is something they can choose to do. Today we have about 30 percent of the world’s population online, but by 2020 we will have reached about 50 percent -- about four billion people,” Sadler said. “Of those four billion, almost all of them… are going to be engaged on the Internet with absolutely no idea what online security means.”

Professor Sadie Creese, director of the new research center at Oxford University, said cybersecurity "is on everyone's radar at the moment."

"We're already highly dependent on cyberspace for our home lives, our work lives, as a nation state, and globally, and that's just going to increase. And as our dependency increases, so does the attractiveness to people who would do us wrong," she said. “Even if we're not witnessing great acts of terrorism in cyberspace at the moment, many people believe it's a natural progression, and it's only a matter of time.”

“In reality, the days of defining a cyberspace and physical space divide are probably over. The truth of living today is we all coexist in both; we're entangled in a sense," Creese said. "We should expect everything that we see in what was previously considered physical space, to manifest in some way in cyberspace.”

The launch took place on Monday at the university’s historic Ashmolean Museum.

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