October 22, 2014

12 Ways to Protect Your Smartphone from Cyber Attacks

smartphone cyber attackEvery year security experts warn that our smartphones are due for a major attack.

This year is no different.

That mini computer you carry with you is a growing target for hackers. We use them to surf the Net, read email, watch news…not to mention they’re also being used as mobile wallets.

Heck. You’re probably reading this article from one now.

Smartphone Cyber Attacks: The Numbers

How serious is the risk?

  • According to a study by Lookout Security 40% of mobile users (or 4 out of 10) clicked on unsafe links with their smartphone in 2012.
  • According to RSA, the security division of EMC, mobile users are at least 3 times more likely to become victims of phishing attacks than desktop users.
  • Mobile users are much less aware of mobile security options.
  • Mobile users easily download games or look for an app they need without researching the developer or knowing what types of permissions they should suspect.
  • According to AVG technologies, 89% are unaware that smartphone applications can transmit confidential payment information such as credit card details without the user’s knowledge or consent.
  • 91% are unaware that financial applications for smartphones can be infected with specialized malware designed to steal credit card numbers and online banking credentials.
  • 29% store credit and debit card information on their devices.
  • 56% did not know that failing to properly log off from a social network app could allow an imposter to post malicious details or change personal settings without their knowledge

Scary, isn’t it?

But there’s good news too:

  • The 13,000 different kinds of mobile malware found so far is nothing compared to the 90 million threats detected for PCs.
  • Developers have learned from the long history of cyber-insecurity during the early PC era. As a result, smartphone operating systems are designed with much stronger security protections.
  • Most companies are already gearing up for the coming tidal wave of security threats (i.e Samsung investing in mobile security firm Fixmo.) The investment is being used to:

“. . .advance research and development in the areas of mobile device integrity verification, data loss prevention (DLP), risk analytics and trusted mobile computing.”

Ways to Prevent a Smartphone Cyber Attack

Here are a couple of suggestions you can use NOW to safeguard yourself:

1. Get rid of your phone:  You could just go Enemy of the State and get rid of the thing. But who are we kidding? You’re not going to do that and I’m not doing that either. (I’m actually cracking up while writing this.) But the truth is, you won’t have to worry about security with that strategy.

2. Set a passcode:  Set a password on your mobile device so that if it is lost or stolen, your data is more difficult to access. One of the the biggest security risks is old fashioned carelessness. Data is most often taken from mobile phones when they’re lost or stolen and aren’t protected by a password. It’s an open invitation for thieves to go rummaging around.

3. Check your phone bill: Be on the lookout for unusual behaviors on your phone, which could be a sign that it is infected. These behaviors may include unusual text messages, suspicious charges to the phone bill, or suddenly decreased battery life.

4. Download from trusted sources:  Before downloading an app, conduct research to make sure the app is legit. This includes checking reviews, confirming the legitimacy of the app store and comparing the app sponsor’s official website with the app store link to confirm consistency. Many apps from untrusted sources contain malware that once installed – can steal information, install viruses, and cause harm to your phone’s contents.

5. Backup and secure your data: You should backup all of the data stored on your phone such as your contacts, documents and photos. These files can be stored on your computer, on a removal storage card, or in the Cloud. This allows you to restore the information to your phone should it be lost, stolen or otherwise erased.

6. Understand app permissions before accepting them: You should be cautious about granting applications access to personal information on your phone or otherwise letting the application have access to perform functions on your phone. Make sure to also check the privacy settings for each app before installing.

7. Wipe data on your old phone before you donate, resell or recycle it:  To protect your privacy, completely erase data off of your phone and reset the phone to its initial factory settings.

8. Make sure you have a security app: Download a mobile security app that scans every app you download for malware and spyware and can help you locate a lost or stolen device. Also, make sure the security app protects from unsafe websites.

9. Report stolen phones: If your phone is stolen, you should report the theft to your local law enforcement authorities and then register the stolen phone with your wireless provider. This provides notice to all the major wireless service providers that the phone has been stolen and will allow for remote “bricking” of the phone so that it cannot be activated on any wireless network without your permission.

10. Read the FCC’s Smart Phone Security Checker: The Commission released an online tool called the “Smartphone Security Checker” in December. It outlined a 10 step action plan mobile users can follow to prevent their personal data from being exposed. Experts believes it is one of the most comprehensive set of rules for safeguarding smartphones.

11. Watch out for pirated apps: Be careful of apps that offer a typically paid app for free or an app that claims to install or download other apps for you. Remember: you get what you pay for.

12. Never wire money to someone you don’t know: This goes without saying, doesn’t it?

Are there any other ways you can think of to protect your smartphone?

Cyber Photo via Shutterstock

10 Comments ▼

Michael Holmes


Michael Holmes Mike Holmes is in Market Development for Marathon Consulting, a New York based information technology firm that aims to help business owners stay focused on their business, not on their network. Feel free to connect with Mike on any of his social media channels.

10 Reactions

  1. Michael Holmes: Setting a passcode is getting you a long way. I know how dangerous the hacking attacks could be. I witnessed a live hacking test once at an event and that was scary to see in action. How many people have a anti-virus software on their mobile phone?

  2. I have been using the Lookout app for a year and like the simple message “everything is OK”. I did not see anything about encrypting the phone. How effective is that and is there any downside to it?

  3. Fantastic post, Mike. I’ve always had a fear that my phone would get attacked or a virus, that’s why I don’t download any apps on my phone hardly. I really appreciate you sharing these useful tips. Thanks!

    Ti

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