How secure is your mobile? It’s one of those boring questions that few people want to ask themselves when acquiring a new phone. Security? Pah! Just let me hit the App Store and I’ll sort all that out later.
Of course, later never comes, a fact that cyber criminals rely on to do their ‘work’. A 2012 Congress report found a 185% increase in the number of mobile-targeted malware variants between 2011 and 2012. ABI research from the same year went further, suggesting a 2180% rise in malware variants.
The disparity between the government’s and the private research company’s estimates is in itself disturbing. That two different studies throw up such wildly different results is indicative of just how little we know about the mobile threat. And these reports (which represent the most recent figures) are now three years out of date. It’s anyone’s guess how many malware variants are out there now.
It’s true that some vulnerabilities faced by mobile devices are the result of inadequate technology, but bad consumer practices are by far the commonest causes of security breaches. Protecting your mobile device means acquainting yourself with these causes and taking steps to avoid them.
1) Poor Password Protection
Despite the wide availability of password controls, many consumers do not enable password protection. Those that do often use easily-cracked passwords like sequential numbers, or a row of zeros. Always use two-factor authentication when conducting sensitive transactions like payments and accessing bank details. Remember, if your passwords are too easy to remember, they’re too easy to guess.
2) Insufficient Security Software
Many mobile devices do not come preinstalled with security software, leaving them open to malware and spyware. Too often, users fail to install software, either because they don’t want to affect their battery life or because they don’t want to slow operations down. The price paid is too high, so make sure your device is adequately protected against Trojans, viruses and scam bait from spammers.
3) Out-of-Date Operating Systems
Security patches and updates are not always installed as soon as they become available. This is partly down to carriers taking their time over testing, and partly down to the proliferation of archaic systems which are no longer supported by the manufacturer. If you want to maximize security, it’s a good idea to update your mobile device at least every couple of years.
4) Out-of-Date Software
Similarly, old software may not have security patches readily available, and third party applications like web browsers do not always notify customers about updates. Be aware that using outdated software increases the risk of cyber attacks.
5) Using Unsecured WiFi Networks
Connecting to an unsecured WiFi network is like an open invitation to hackers. They insert their device into the middle of the communication stream and steal information. Be vigilant when using public networks and, if possible, avoid them altogether.
The schoolboy error of schoolboy errors, it’s startling how many people use Bluetooth without being aware of what it is. Remember, if your device is in ‘discovery’ mode it can be seen by other Bluetooth-enabled devices. Easy pickings for a cyber attacker, who can install malware or even activate your camera and microphone in order to eavesdrop. As with public WiFi, the best protection against Bluetooth scams is to simply avoid using it altogether. Failing that, keep it turned off whenever you’re not using it.