Are Your Smartphones and Other Mobile Devices Secure?
By William G. Perry, Ph.D.
Smartphones and other mobile computing devices are under attack and face major risks. They have become prime targets for cybercriminals. Many people are unaware.
Mobile phones, tablets and notepads have significant vulnerabilities. You need to be aware and take steps to keep them from becoming a victim of a cybercriminal and losing critical information.
Today’s smartphones are very powerful and can access as much confidential information as networked computers. Modern mobile platforms are incredibly capable and are routinely used by people who are on the go and in environments that are insecure. The sensitivity of the information being sent and received virtually includes any set of confidential information to which the user has access.
Mobile digital equipment faces the same attack vectors as desktop computers (e.g. malware, social engineering, signal interception and overlay attacks).
Additional challenges that are very unique exist. Your smartphone wireless signal, for example, can connect with a fake cell tower being operated by a cybercriminal and gain access to all of your information.
The mobile information security problem is becoming worse. More than two million varieties of malware are in existence and directed against transportable computing devices. A single data breach could potentially bankrupt a company.
One information security news source, ChannelPro, reports that more than 70 million smartphones are physically lost each year with only 7 percent being recovered. One laptop is stolen every fifty-three seconds. Mobile devices are easy to steal.
The security perimeter, in recent years, has been pushed back from the secure space behind a firewall to any location on the planet where a user can make a wireless connection. The user of a smartphone or a tablet functions outside of the protection of a computer network and the signal is “in the wild”. Unless robust encryption is being used, any information that is being broadcast through the air can be intercepted and compromised.
The fact that users routinely “sync” their mobile devices with desktop computers is another significant vulnerability. Both devices can easily be infected with malware if one or the other digital hardware has been compromised.
Computing on the go faces all of the typical threats and vulnerabilities as well as a number of new ones. Smartphones or notepads can be individually targeted. Cybercriminals, for example, can gain access to your confidential information by simply observing you work. There are other vulnerabilities. “Texting”, for example, has been known to deliver malware to unsuspecting users that can allow cybercriminals to completely compromise an entire hardware platform.
Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices must be secured at all times, particularly when they are being used in public (e.g. in an airport). Users should be alert to the threat of having their equipment physically stolen and should take extraordinary steps to protect their data being stored or transmitted.
Smartphones and mobile digital equipment, in reality, are at a much greater risk of being lost, damaged or compromised than a networked computer. Smartphones can easily be stolen but they can also function as a conduit for the transfer of malware when they are synced or used to exchange information with network computers. Now that mobile digital devices are so powerful it’s fair to suggest the damage that can be done by the loss of a mobile device can be just as bad as by any other means.
You should make every effort to learn how to secure your mobile digital equipment.
Dr. William G. Perry is an information security specialist with significant experience as a university professor, author and contractor for various federal agencies. Dr. Perry is the publisher of How to Secure Your Smartphone and Other Mobile devices. Dr. Perry’s company, The Learning Net, also publishes a computer security glossary http://www.computer-security-glossary.org.