Jun 29 2013

Understanding Mobile Attackers Will Help You Stay Protected When Mobile

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A little-understood danger

Mobile phones, or smartphones, are hardly phones at all; they are essentially small-scale computers that include phoning as one of their many capabilities (and now we have smartwatches, too!). As such, they are vulnerable to the same kinds of threats — malware, viruses, Trojan horses, adware and the like — as any other device that has Internet access. Indeed, the eminent computer security company Symantec put mobile attacks at the top of its list of security threats for 2013. Unfortunately, too few smartphone owners realize this danger and often surf carelessly and even recklessly, with their devices. And indeed, those who hack into smartphones can do damage beyond what they can do with a desktop computer. They can make expensive calls on their own phones for which the victims have to pay the bills. If you are the owner of a smartphone, therefore, you will have to know what specific dangers are out there and what you can do to avoid them.

A partnership for mobile protection

In response to the growing incidence of smartphone threats, a group of organizations, both private and public, have banned together to form a partnership for the purpose of countering them. Among these organizations are the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security, BlackBerry, Symantec, McAfee, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Cyber Security Alliance, CTIA — the Wireless Association, Lookout, Sophos and Chertoff Group. All these associations, and more, aim to help the consumer sort out questions involving mobile security.

What do mobile attackers target?

Mobile attackers hack into smartphones for the same reasons that all hackers do — to gain access to information that they can then use to get a “free ride.” This includes things like debit and credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and bank passwords. To make the task more difficult for them, use a password that is virtually impossible to guess — one that has eight or more characters and contains letters, numbers and other characters (yes, they allow those now, though such was not the case a few years ago). It may seem like a nuisance to have to keep typing in the password each time you turn on your phone, but you will find that the safety of your personal data is worth it.

Anti-virus protection is also necessary, just as with a desktop PC. Many of the same brands for the latter — such as Norton, Symantec and McAfee — also market protection for the former.

Dangerous Apps

A word must be said about mobile apps. Many owners make their mobile phones even more useful and convenient than they were when they were first purchased, by installing apps on them. These programs can be used for just about everything under the sun, from checking the whether and tracking one’s weight to scanning QR codes on store products. But it needs to be acknowledged that security breaches can come from apps, too. Therefore, you should not download any of them without first installing software that scans them to determine whether they are safe or not. Better yet, download apps only from trusted sources, such as Apple Store for the iPhone.

The importance of updating

It is, of course, common sense to update one’s machines whenever the opportunity arises. But in the case of smartphones, security patches may be included with updates, so the need is especially great.

Some novel security features

Computer engineers have developed a number of ingenious technologies for securing systems against unauthorized intrusion, many of which were actually in use long before the advent of the Web. One such technology is facial recognition software, the most sophisticated of which cannot be fooled even by a photograph of the user’s face! There are also “pattern options” which some smartphone owners don’t care to use but which you may find work for you.

PDFs on each phone line

Each line of smartphone differs somewhat from others in its security requirements. For a PDF on those of the major lines, click here.

Sarah Hendricks who a security expert on protecting users and businesses from hackers and data leakage. Users in the office, at home, or working remotely are all subject to attack. Sarah has teamed up with mobile  security leader NQ.com to keep mobile devices protected nation wide!

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