By now, you are probably used to protecting your computer from a wide variety of threats, but what about your phone? Most of us rely on our mobile phones to communicate, socialize, work, store pictures and contacts, and even do online tasks like banking and shopping, yet we don’t often protect them.
This could be a mistake. Mobile security threats—both offline and online—are prevalent and growing. With these threats growing it is important to consider a mobile security application for your Android, Blackberry or any other mobile device.
Consider that people are 15 times1 more likely to lose their mobile phones than their laptops. In the U.S. alone, 113 phones,2 are lost every second, and 12,000 smartphones are found in airports each week. And, losing your phone doesn’t just mean losing the personal and confidential information stored on it, but also your ability to communicate.
What’s more, losing your mobile phone or tablet PC could lead to identity theft if you have personally identifiable information stored on it, such as your date of birth or driver’s license number, or if you have your phone’s browser set to automatically log you in to banking and shopping sites.
Given that researchers found that almost a quarter of consumers store their computer or banking passwords on their mobile devices, and around 11% store personally identifiable information, and even credit card numbers3, these risks are very real.
Confidential work information is another matter. It is estimated that nearly one-third4 of all workers will lose a mobile device that could provide access to sensitive company information, making this a top concern for businesses today. It’s easy to see why they are worried—the Ponemon Institute5 estimates that the loss of a smartphone can cost a company $129,000 when data loss is factored in.
Beyond the risk of loss, mobile users should also be concerned with the growing amount of malware aimed at mobile devices, which is expected to double6 by the end of this year.
In fact, malware directed at the Android platform increased by 76%7 over the last few months and there are now over 1,200 variants targeting a number of mobile platforms. So far the Symbian, Android and J2ME platforms have been the most affected, but Windows phones are also facing attack.
Mobile malware threats can be very similar to those directed at your computer. You could accidentally install a dangerous application that includes malicious code or spyware, or you could connect to an unsecure wireless network, allowing a cybercriminal to potentially access your information.
You could also fall victim to a phishing attack that tricks you into handing over your personal information or financial details. One study8 has shown that mobile users were three times more likely to give their personal information to a phishing website than desktop users. Cybercriminals have now even begun sending phishing messages via SMS texts, which is known as “SMiShing.”
Given these risks, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself. Here are some tips to keep your information safe:
- Always password protect your device and set it to auto-lock after a certain period of time to increase your mobile security.
- Consider using a product such as McAfee® Mobile Security, which provides mobile antivirus protection,can backup and restore the information on your phone, as well as remotely locate it and wipe data in the case of loss or theft. It can also block bad website links embedded in emails, text messages, social networking sites and even Quick Response (QR) codes.
- Never leave your phone unattended in a public place.
- Don’t store sensitive information on your phone.
- If you use online banking and shopping sites, always log out and don’t select the “remember me” function.
- Carefully check your mobile phone bills for any anomalies.
In all likelihood, smartphone and tablet use will continue to grow and bring us new functionality and applications that make our lives easier. As long as we take the necessary precautions to protect our devices and information, we should be able to enjoy these developments.
1 McAfee, Feb. 2011
2 MicroTrax Feb 2011
3 CPP Research, March 2010
4 Trusteer, Jan 2011
5 Ponemon Institute, July 2011
7 McAfee Q2 2011 Threat Report
8 Trusteer, Jan 2011