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Hackers' Next Major Target: Your Smartphone

This story originally appeared on CNBC

It was difficult to go through a week this year without hearing of another major cybersecurity breach. And it looks as though 2015 will be no different but this time it'll be which will be the big battleground for hackers, security experts have warned.

Most of the ever-lengthening list of headline-hitting hacks—including  Pictures and retailer —have happened via a compromise to the companies' computer networks. Up until now smartphones have escaped relatively unscathed.

But as businesses allow their employees to use their own mobile devices for work, people use their phones to log into local wi-fi and the mobile e-commerce space explodes, analysts warn hackers are likely to follow the .

"They (smartphones) are now so integrated into people's lives and people are using them for all the things they would have used the for five years ago," David Emm, senior security research at Kaspersky Lab, told CNBC by phone.

"We are taking them in and out of businesses and on travel and we are a target in a hotel, café and pretty much anywhere. The fact that they are switched on all the time makes them a good target." 
Kaspersky found that mobile attacks had increased fourfold in the year to the end of October 2014 to 1,363,549 unique attacks, compared with the same period in the previous year.

Business and pleasure

Behind the heightened threat of hack attacks are two major drivers: the rising trend of bring your own device (BYOD) to work, and the increasing amount of money transactions done through phones.

Twice as many employee-owned devices will be used for work than enterprise-owned devices by 2018, according to , the research firm. But this also increases the risk of a breach at a company.

"Businesses and enterprises are letting employees use the latest smartphones and access things like corporate emails and suddenly the mobile device is as convenient as on working on a larger device," Vinod Banerjee, partner and data protection specialist at law firm Taylor Wessing, told CNBC by phone.

"You have employees doing more on a mobile device and doing it ad hoc here and there and perhaps therefore not thinking about some of the risks that are apparent."

If a hacker is able to compromise a user's personal device, they could easily get access to corporate emails or sensitive data.

Follow the money

Mobile e-commerce or "m-commerce" has also been on the rise and is also set to continue growing, especially after  announced Apple Pay earlier this year. An increasing number of people are paying for items on their mobiles and near-field communication (NFC) technologies will drive future growth.

Consumers are now storing lots of financial information on their phones through banking apps and virtual wallets.

Annual transaction value of online, mobile and contactless payments will reach $4.7 trillion by 2019, up from just over $2.5 trillion this year, according to Juniper Research. And this is tasty for hackers looking to make some serious money.

"You have both Samsung and Apple with their new pay system which suddenly opens the floodgates for phones to become the predominant method for payment," Greg Day, FireEye's chief technology officer for EMEA, told CNBC by phone.

"The simple reality is that we as consumers use our phones more and more and our wallets and laptops less and less. The criminal will surely follow that."

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