Cyber Security & Your Mobile Phone

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The number of people using mobile devices in every aspect of their lives keeps increasing, and it is vital to stay safe and secure when you are online. Mobile malware Viking Hoard recently created a botnet affecting Android devices. Malware such as Pegasus has affected both Android and iOS devices, masquerading as an app that harvests data. These apps are used for adware purposes, but they have been rooting millions of mobile devices with malware, opening the backdoor on infected devices.

Increase in mobile malware

Cybercriminals can use your mobile device for many purposes, including to steal sensitive data - very scary, but also very real. One way to protect the data on your phone is to check the status of your updates and mobile apps regularly. If you have apps that are no longer supported by either Google or Apple’s app stores, it’s a good idea to stop using them. It is also essential to install good security software on your mobile phone. Since there is a continued threat of malware and spyware, user awareness and behavior also needs to evolve.

For example, if you intend to play at a mobile casino then it is risky to pick a random site and give them all your information, including your banking details. Similarly, you shouldn’t be too quick to give any of your details to an insurance website. Not all sites are a sham; there are legitimate gambling sites which must adhere to the rules and regulations put in place by the Gambling Commission. Failure to adhere to this causes these sites to have their operator's license revoked.

In addition to the increased volume of people turning to mobile devices as their primary means for surfing the internet, there is an increase in using them for transmitting and storing data. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, 57% of smartphone users do their online banking on their phones - and online banking is just the beginning. GPS applications can pinpoint your exact location. A lot of mobile applications often require you to allow them to access the data you have stored in the cloud, or on your phone.

Many people also receive verification codes for logging into sites, or digital boarding passes via SMS. Social media apps publish personal data or photos, while health and fitness apps track your food intake, steps and heart rate. If a cybercriminal wants to learn all there is to know about you, they can do so by breaching your mobile phone. Your smartphone can transmit and store larger amounts of sensitive data than your computer, and it is rarely as well protected.

Mobile phones and security threats

Several factors play a role in weakening phone security. The number one concern is that mobile devices are much easier to misplace, or steal. Since we carry our phones everywhere, there is greater potential to lose them. When a criminal gains physical control over your mobile device it may be quite easy to gain control of the data stored.

Another huge threat for cybersecurity is the validity of third-party applications. Most of these apps have not been vetted by any major app stores, such as Google Play or iTunes. Therefore, such applications do not pass the minimum safety standard. Take the iPhone for instance; Apple has stringent laws about apps since they can only be downloaded from iTunes, giving you far greater security. The primary disadvantage of this is that users cannot go outside the ecosystem of iTunes, which is why many iPhone users opt to jailbreak their phones - a dangerous measure that negates all security.

On the other hand, Android allows for the installation of third-party applications. Even though Google highly recommends you install apps only from Google Play Store, they will allow you to install apps from elsewhere, at your own risk.

Failure to regularly update your device’s operating system can open your smartphone up to other security threats. To update your smartphone, you need sufficient battery power and storage space. Every time you delay a software update, you give a cybercriminal the chance to exploit security loopholes in the operating system.

Finally, since technical security measures are not very common on mobile phones, cyber risks tend to be more compounded. Unlike computers - which are often equipped with anti-malware software, antivirus, and firewalls -mobile phones only have the security of their apps and their operating system to protect them.

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Ways to enhance cyber security

What does cyber security mean to smartphone users? Anyone using a mobile device should remain vigilant on matters concerning cybersecurity. Below are some of the steps you can take to make sure your phone and its contents are secure.

Passwords: Lock your phone with either fingerprint detection or a password. This will ensure that data on your phone will not be accessed if it’s stolen, or you misplace it. Set the timer on your password lock to 30 seconds, or even less.

Back up your data: You should consider connecting your device to its associated cloud service so that your data can be backed up automatically, ensuring it is properly encrypted. If you don’t have faith in cloud services, connect to a Mac or PC to synchronize your data regularly to preserve your apps, videos, photos and other files.

Beware of third-party apps: For iPhone users, installing third-party apps is not an option. Android users who stay on Google Play and don’t allow the installation of apps from unknown sources are quite safe. If you opt to use third-party applications, do background checks to avoid installing malware. Try and read customer reviews on the app, and if it asks to access an array of personal data then do not download or use it.

Beware of social engineering scams: A lot of cybercriminals thrive on spoofing banking apps, emailing malicious attachments and links and sending fake messages in attempts to collect personal data. Make sure you thoroughly vet communications from unknown sources. If something doesn’t seem quite right, it most likely isn’t.

Avoid rooting your Android or jailbreaking your iPhone: Both processes might be different but the result is the same - both involve bypassing the operating system’s careful design, weakening the security of your mobile device.

Be careful when using public Wi-Fi: Free Wi-Fi tends to excite many people, especially if they don’t want to use up all their mobile data. Keep in mind that public Wi-Fi is never secure. Make sure you don’t transmit sensitive data or make any banking transactions while using public Wi-Fi.

Set up remote wipe on your device: This option enables all your phone’s data to be wiped out remotely in the event your device is stolen or lost. With a remote wipe, you can keep sensitive data on your phone out of the reach of cybercriminals. The remote wipe application can also use GPS to locate your missing phone.

Use anti-malware software: Download an anti-malware app on your mobile phone. This will come in handy when you open a malicious app or email attachment. Anti-malware protection for mobile devices can prevent infection, and loss or theft of data.

Conclusion

There is a high probability you use your mobile device to do a lot of things online. Consider taking necessary steps to curb the rising tide of malware activity on mobile phones.

If you have any questions or comments you’d like to share, you’re welcome to post in the comment section below.

Ilmoitettu 11 marraskuuta, 2017

LucyKarinsky
LucyKarinsky Henkilökunta

Software Developer

Lucy is the Development & Programming Correspondent for Freelancer.com. She is currently based in Sydney.

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