While smartphones may appear to simply be fancy phones with a few interesting features added on, they are really full-featured computers. They come with all the security risks associated with traditional computers.
If anything, smartphones are even riskier than regular computers
If you use your smartphone to make online purchases or to access your bank account, it has all the information that a hacker could want. The fact that a smartphone is small and easily lost or stolen makes it a bigger risk than regular computers. Here are a few other ways in which your smartphone is a bigger data security risk than a traditional computer.
Phones aren’t well-protected against text message threats: If the email service you use on your computer has a good spam filter, you never get to see the dozens of dangerous emails with viruses and phishing attempts that you get each day. Smartphones don’t have spam filters for text messages, though. If you get a text message that tells you to click on a link to get a free hit ringtone, for instance, you might not see why you shouldn’t follow through. Many of these links, though, directly download malware to your phone.
Near Field Communications and Bluetooth: Many smartphones offer the ability to transmit and receive data over Bluetooth and NFC. With NFC, your phone merely needs to be in close proximity to another similarly equipped phone to allow the other phone to send and receive data. If you don’t take the precaution to turn off these radios when you aren’t using them, you could expose yourself to data theft.
You need to take a few specific precautions to help protect yourself from smartphone security risks
1. Restrict access to your phone by setting a password: The simple security measure of setting up passwords and setting your phone to automatically lock up after a period of inactivity can be one of the best ways to protect your phone. An effective password can deter casual hacking attempts.
2. Turn on encryption: Microsoft is introducing system-wide data encryption on Windows 8.1. With encryption turned on, no one gaining access to your computer is able to make sense of the contents of the hard drive. As students at ethical hacking schools like TrainACE CEH Training learn, encryption is even more important on smartphones. When you turn your phone’s encryption feature on, no intruder is able to easily access its data.
3. The day you need to get rid of your phone, do it carefully: Most smartphones come with a data wipe feature to help you get rid of any sensitive personal information before you sell or otherwise dispose of your phone. You should both encrypt your data and use the data wipe feature before you let go of your phone.
4. Don’t absently install apps with unfair usage terms: People are used to carelessly accepting the terms and conditions that come with the programs and apps that they use. This habit is a remnant of a time when programs were mainly designed by large, trustworthy corporations. Today, phone apps can be cheaply thrown together by any small business that wishes to take undue advantage of the information stored on the user’s device. When you install an app from an unknown source, you need to first research it online to look for complaints about intrusive practices.
5. Be careful about using NFC and Bluetooth: Your phone’s NFC and Bluetooth capabilities should only be turned on when you actually need to use them. If you leave these turned on all the time, a hacker or a malware-infected phone nearby can gain access to your phone.
6. Using a Wi-Fi hotspot can be risky too: Smartphone users often look for free Wi-Fi hotspots to save a little of their expensive mobile data allowances. Hackers sometimes log on to these Wi-Fi hotspots to find unprotected devices to exploit. It’s important that you never enter sensitive personal information on any website when you are logged on to a public hotspot. Your data could be intercepted by such a hacker.
7. Keep your operating system updated: All the major phone operating systems try to keep themselves updated on their own. Sometimes, though, you may feel the need to disable automatic updates to save your data allowance. You need to be sure to turn automatic updates back on when you are on a free Wi-Fi zone, though. A fully updated OS gives you the best chance at protecting yourself against malware.
8. Get a good security app: Smartphones are as vulnerable to security threats as computers are. You need to locate a reputable security suite for your phone to keep it protected.
9. Be careful about what you click on: No matter what precautions you take, the level of security you enjoy ultimately comes down to the care you take using your device. Before you click on a link, download or install anything, you need to make sure that it’s legitimate. Even the best security software can’t protect you if you are careless about the kind of files you allow on your device.