We live in a digital age where everything is online, and smartphones are an efficient and convenient vehicle to access and share electronic information. However, this accessibility increases the threat of cyber attacks. Malware, viruses, Trojans, and botnets are becoming increasingly common infections on smartphones. Despite this threat, many people overlook the need for smartphone cybersecurity software. In a recent study, 96% of smartphones do not have installed security software, which puts the user’s personal information at risk. Additionally, big-name online security companies often do not make traditional software that is found on personal computers, such as firewalls, antivirus, and encryption, for popular smartphone devices (i.e., iPhone, Android, and Blackberry).
Why Do Smartphones Need Cybersecurity?
Smartphones are essentially small computers with a mobile operating system. However, smartphones are more vulnerable to cyber attacks than personal computers because we use them for more personal tasks. Smartphones can access emails, monetary transactions, social media applications, and accessing online banking. Through their use, our phones compile a large collection of personal information that is extremely attractive to hackers.
Furthermore, smartphones often use “clouds” to sync data across all of a user’s devices. Therefore, a hacker only needs access to one device to retrieve all of your information on the cloud.
Additionally, attackers can utilize an employee’s smartphone to infiltrate company information. A recent study found that 67% of companies and organizations suffered a data breach due to a hacker infiltrating an employee’s smartphone.
How Are Smartphones Hacked and Infected?
Third Party App Stores
Many app stores entice people with lower prices for their applications. However, the Apple App Store and Google Play are the safest sources for applications because, unlike third-party companies, they have security measures that filter out malware-infected apps. Third-party stores are highly unregulated and can trick you into downloading a malware-infested application that compromises your data. In a recent study, scientists found that attackers used illegitimate apps to infiltrate 1.3 million Google accounts in 2016.
Drive-by downloads are any malware that installs itself onto your device without your approval. These are found on fraudulent websites and emails, and, once you access them, the drive-by begins to download infectious software onto your smartphone.
7 Ways to Avoid Hackers and Smartphone Infection
1. Install Security Software and Keep it Updated
Security Software is necessary for any device that can access the internet. The software is designed to patch security holes that make your information vulnerable. Furthermore, each update keeps the device secure against new security holes, so it’s important to have the most current software.
2. Keep your Operating System Updated
Updates for smartphone operating systems are released to improve your phone’s innate security. While many people worry about the time and space that these updates cost, it is important to utilize them. These updates keep hackers at bay and protect your personal information.
3. Don’t Jailbreak Your Phone and Be Careful Installing Apps
Many people are tempted to jailbreak their phones to use other application stores. However, you should only install apps from credible stores such as Google Play and the Apple App. Furthermore, be aware of what information you are giving applications access to on your phone. As consumers, we often overlook these small details and give them access to whatever they want. However, unlimited access can allow them to install malicious software on your device.
4. Use a Password Lock on Your Device
Having a screen-lock is the first level of defense against an information breach. Even if the phone gets stolen, the screen-lock can prevent access to most intruders. While a password may seem obvious, studies show that most people don’t have a passcode lock because it is an inconvenience.
Furthermore, passwords and passcodes are the preferred types of protection. Many people utilize biometric identifications, but they prove to be less effective. In many court rulings, the U.S. found that individuals must unlock their phones if utilizing biometric identification. However, they are not mandated to reveal their passcode.
5. Be Aware of Wi-Fi Networks and Bluetooth
It is very tempting to connect to public Wi-Fi networks. However, open networks make it extremely easy for hackers to intercept your online traffic and infiltrate your system. Therefore, never use open public networks to send or access sensitive information such as passwords or banking information.
Bluetooth is another easy way for attackers to access your phone. Therefore, whenever you aren’t using, turn it off.
6. Wipe Data from Old Phones
Before selling or disposing of an old phone, be sure to erase all of your data from it and restore it to factory settings. By doing so, it prevents attackers from accessing your personal information through your old phone.
7. Report any Stolen Smartphone
If your phone is stolen, report it to the local law enforcement authorities and register the stolen device with your provider. By registering the phone, it notifies you when someone tries to access a wireless network. Furthermore, it utilizes a “bricking” mechanism that prevents the phone from being activated on a wireless network.
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Resources: https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-emerging-threats-why-smartphones-and-tablets-need-security-software.html, https://medium.com/threat-intel/smartphone-security-tips-f0c30c309030, https://heimdalsecurity.com/blog/smartphone-security-guide-keep-your-phone-data-safe/, https://www.fcc.gov/sites/default/files/smartphone_master_document.pdf, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/255965434_Cyber_Security_and_Mobile_Threats_The_Need_For_Antivirus_Applications_For_Smart_Phones
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