COMMON RISKS FOR SMARTPHONES
We usually do a good job of protecting our computers, but what about smartphones? Careless use can open up users to a lot of risks. Take a moment to consider each of these areas:
Loss of device and information theft. Smartphones are small and can easily be lost or stolen. Unauthorized users may access your accounts, address lists, photos, and more to scam, harm, or embarrass you or your friends. They may leverage stored passwords to access your bank and credit card accounts, steal your money, or make credit card charges. They may also gain access to sensitive material.
Social engineering. A common mobile threat is social engineering. Whether via text message, image, or application (app) to download, an incoming communication may be an attempt to gain access to your information. A current example consists of a text message that comes from an unknown number telling you that if you click on the link provided, you will have access to thousands of free ringtones. If this sounds too good to be true, that is because it is. The link is a malicious link. Clicking on it will compromise the security of your smartphone.
TMI (too much information). Guidelines for protecting privacy, safety, and reputation when sharing via computers also apply when sharing via smartphones.
Public Wi-Fi. Smartphones are susceptible to malware and hacking when leveraging unsecured public networks.
Bluetooth® and near field communications (NFC). Bluetooth is a wireless network technology that uses short-wave radio transmissions to transmit voice and data. NFC allows for smartphones to communicate with each other by simply touching (“bumping”) another smartphone, or being in close proximity to another smartphone with NFC capabilities or an NFC device. Risks with using NFC and Bluetooth include eavesdropping, through which the cybercriminal can intercept your personal data. NFC also has the risk of transferring viruses or other malware from one NFC-enabled device to another.
SIMPLE STEPS TO PROTECT YOUR SMARTPHONE
Update the operating system. Smartphones are computing devices that need to be updated. Updates often provide you with enhanced functionality and enriched features, as well as fixes to critical security vulnerabilities. Your smartphone manufacturer should notify you whenever an update is available.
Use of security software is a must. As the smartphone market is increasing, so too is the amount of malware designed to attack smartphones. The software security solutions that are available for desktops and laptops are not as widely available for smartphones. A key protection is to use mobile security software and keep it up to date. Many of these programs can also locate a missing or stolen smartphone, back up your data, and even remotely wipe all data from the smartphone if it is reported stolen.
Password-protect your device. Enable strong password protection on your device and include a timeout that requires authentication after a period of inactivity. Secure the smartphone with a unique password – not the default one it came with. Do not share your password with others.
Think before you click, download, forward, or open. Before responding, registering, downloading, or providing information, get the facts. No matter how tempting the text, image, or application is, if the download is not from a legitimate app store or the site of a trusted company, do not engage with the message.
Be cautious with public Wi-Fi. Many smartphone users use free Wi-Fi hotspots to access data and keep their smartphone plan costs down. There are numerous threats associated with Wi-Fi hotspots. To be safe, avoid logging into accounts, especially financial accounts, when using public wireless networks.
Disable Bluetooth and NFC capabilities when not in use. Capabilities such as Bluetooth and NFC can provide ease and convenience in using your smartphone. They can also provide an easy way for a nearby, unauthorized user to gain access to your data. Turn these features off when they are not required.
Enable encryption. Enabling encryption on your smartphone is one of the best ways to safeguard information stored on the device, thwarting unauthorized access.
Securely dispose of your device. With the constant changes and upgrades in the smartphone market, many are upgrading their devices on a regular basis. It is important that you wipe the information from your smartphone before disposal. Additionally, make sure any secure digital (SD) cards are removed and erased. If you are not redeploying the subscriber identity module (SIM) card to another device, then make sure your personal information stored on the SIM card is erased or destroyed.
For additional information, please consult these resources:
About.com – 14 Ways to Find a Stolen or Lost iPhone: http://ipod.about.com/od/iphonetroubleshooting/tp/14-Ways-To-Find-A-Lost-Or-Stolen-Iphone.htm
FTC – How to Dispose Your Mobile Device Securely:
University of Northern Colorado:
US-CERT – Cyber Threats to Mobile Phones:
Sophos – Android Tool:
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