There are around 2.5 billion smartphones in the world at the moment.Smartphones contain more varied information about us than any other device but, unfortunately, every one of these handsets is at risk from increasingly sophisticated cyber criminals, whose sole aim is to extract your personal information and use it maliciously.
Your personal security is probably at least as important as your wallet and you should treat it with the same level of concern. Your mobile has features which can be used to uniquely identify you and your most personal private information – these days, most of us even perform banking operations on our phones, regularly.
In a recent Checkpoint Survey, 20% of companies surveyed had experienced an instance of their mobile devices being breached y an outside agent. Perhaps even more alarmingly, 25% of respondents to the same survey had been hacked and not realized it.
It’s not all doom and gloom. There are some simple steps that everyone can take, to lock their devices down and some, more complex device security measures that small businesses can look to their IT departments to perform. Lets take a look at 5 achievable tips you can use to secure mobile devices.
- If you only do one thing: Use Anti Virus (anti-malware) software
Individuals themselves may not know whatbehaviors make them vulnerable online but they do know that there is software out there designed to solve this problem.
The industry has been effectively carved up by the brands you know, including Trend Micro, AVG and Sophos Mobile Security. Many of the software produced by these companies is designed specifically to address this need – securing the mobile computing assets of non-technical people. And AntiVirus software, often also includes a host of other features, including device backup and restore and often ‘where’s my phone’ functionality, can help them. They’re as easy to install as any other app in the Google Play and iOS app store. If you’re in any doubt at all, install one of these.
Also bear in mind. In the event of an emergency, (for example, you think you’ve downloaded a virus) these providers will let you download a trial license which can help you diagnose a problem to see if your phone has been hacked or if something else is the root of the problem.
Finally,if it’s question of money, the free versions (I used AVG – which is free for a long time) are every bit as good as the paid for versions, although you might have to put up with some ads along the way.
- Use your phone’s password, keylock or fingerprint scanner
There are many reasons to set a password on your mobile, from avoiding pocket dials, to preventing snoopers, and, of course, to secure the device just in case it is stolen.
Adding a password or fingerprint scanner is a simple step most devices let you set a Personal Identification Number (PIN), use Facial Recognition or allow a password right out of the box.
Unless you would be happy for the entirety of your mobile phones contents to be available to others, it’s one you should definitely take. If you work for a company, they should insist on this.
- Use Mobile Device Management (MDM) features built in to the phone
Lost your phone? Had it stolen? All is not lost. As long as your device currently has a cellular data connection and a battery charge, you can exert some control over it and its contents.
There are a host of application and service providers, from VMware to IBM which can provide your IT department with Mobile Device Management (MDM) software. Even BlackBerry – the company which essentially defined the current scope of device management software with their BlackBerry Enterprise Server tools 15 years ago – have a product you can use.
Any of these more significant investments in to securing your mobile assets will help enormously. There is a never endingly diverse array of technology being connected to your network and these tools will help you track and manage that list.
- Regularly update your operating system and patches
Even the Federal Communications Comission (FCC) understand the importance of updating your phones’ built in software – something you can usually do for free from your phone manufacturer’s website.
You’ll often receive a message on your phone, telling you it’s time to upgrade the software, if you filled in your warranty card, or from your telco if you signed a contract. (Telcoshave to test the software too,as well as the device manufacturer, in these circumstances so getting the update through your phone company could take longer for it to come through.)
Updating the operating system on your phone is probably a step too far for most end users but again, the IT department can assist, where required. They can also, likely distribute this sort of software update using the MDM software they have.
Covering the basics may well be all you need to do
Hackers, like many criminals, are opportunists. If it’s too hard to attack one individual’s device, they’ll just move along to the next, who hasn’t covered these basic security steps.
Adding a password to your phone is one thing. Upgrading the operating system regularly is quite another. These are reasonably technical tasks for the complete novice and there are a number of overlapping exposures which a normal user would face. This says something about why Trend Micro has so many customers for their antivirus software – it’s the first, effective, practical step that most users will take. Beyond non-technical individuals, IT departments have to become involved in considering mobile device security.