The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications urged the public to be on guard when using the popular messaging app Telegram.
In a December 16 notification, the ministry said hackers have been infecting people’s devices with viruses by impersonating prominent individuals such as politicians or celebrities.
The hackers are creating false identities and using famous names in order to send people messages attached with documents, files, and images that are contaminated with virus programmes, which launch when the attached files are opened, tapped or selected.
Once the virus has been activated on a person’s device, the hacker can then gain full access to the device’s entire contents and administrator level control over its functions.
This allows them to steal any data present on the device or that is accessible to the device but stored online. It also gives them the ability to remotely turn on the device’s cameras and microphones for spying purposes.
The notification said these attacks have been happening with increasing frequency.
The ministry’s Cambodia Computer Emergency Response Team (CamCERT) said that in order to avoid falling victim to this hack, all Telegram users need to verify the identity of the account holder before opening any attached file and to carefully examine the accounts of anyone who sends them messages. When in doubt, delete the suspicious attached files without opening them and block the sender.
“Users have to be careful. If you have doubts or if they have never messaged you before, ask them for verification by calling them on the phone or through some other method of communication in order to confirm that it was really someone you know who messaged you,” he said.
The CamCERT said Telegram users can change their in-app settings to make the app safer to use, particularly those listed under Privacy & Security.
Hackers will also sometimes claim to be technicians or customer service agents or app developers in order to lower users’ guard. Some use provocative or pornographic material such as videos or images in order to get people to open those files, consequently infecting their device with a virus at the same time.
Attacks of this nature have long been a hazard associated with email attachments like PDF files, but in recent years similar hacks have been engineered to take over mobile devices specifically and hackers have deployed them on all of the major messaging platforms with varying degrees of success at this point, including WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat, Messenger and a host of others.
The Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Cybercrime Department director Chea Pov has assigned officials to search for and identify any offenders in Cambodia using these hacks so that they may be brought to justice. He said that in the past there had been a few cases in Cambodia, but not many.
“These crimes frequently happened in other countries, but in Cambodia apps like Telegram had never been that popular until recently. Over the last two months, the number of incidents has greatly increased here,” he said.
Pov added that the department is now tracking these cases more closely. He urged the public to be careful in how they use technology and learn how to defend their devices from hackers to avoid being scammed or cheated.
“Please don’t click on random links or doubtful documents in your email inbox or on social networks or apps such as Telegram. Take precautions to avoid uploading or installing contaminated documents or files.