Most of us are aware that we need to get some sort of virus protection or internet security for our computers. Even Mac users are now aware that they need some sort of protection, because Macs are becoming more vulnerable to attack, and there are now several antivirus for Mac options available.
We are also aware that we need to take certain security precautions when our business and personal computers are at stake.
What we often don’t think about are the other devices that we use to connect to the internet – our smartphones and tablets. Most of us have some kind of web-enabled mobile device, and yet 34 percent of us don’t do anything to protect these devices, and only a small number of people do the bare minimum, which is assigning a four-digit lock screen code.
The thing is there are several reasons why our mobile devices need just as much protection from the internet, maybe even more than our Macs or PCs.
Why You Should Protect Your Mobile Devices
We do everything on our devices.
We don’t just use them to check Facebook or text our friends, we also use them for banking, and to make purchases. We have accounts at places like Google, Amazon, and iTunes that store our financial information so that we can purchase apps, and music, and movies quickly and easily. Not only that, but most of these sites log us in automatically when we go there on our mobile devices. We keep all of our contacts on our mobile devices and our calendars with important dates like birthdays – those same important dates that many of us use for passwords and login information. Some of us even store our password information directly on the phone. That much easily accessible information needs to be protected.
We carry our devices everywhere.
We put them in our purses and in our pockets, we carry them in our glove compartments, and we have a tendency to just leave them lying around. Go out to dinner and the phone is just sitting on the table. Go to work and it’s on the desk. Go to the gym and it’s in the locker or, worse, out on the exercise floor serving double duty as a music player. Something that spends so much time getting schlepped from point “A” to who knows where has a high potential for getting lost or stolen. If that device isn’t secured when it goes walkabout, then anyone who gets their hands on it will get their hands on your stuff.
We download a lot of software.
When smartphones first came, there were those who wondered why they were even necessary. Did someone really need to be able to buy movie tickets while standing in line at the grocery? And the answer was yes. Today, not only are there apps for that, there are apps for anything you can imagine, and many of them are free. Many of them are also malicious or, at the very least, annoying, and can cause security threats including:
- Collecting and sending information from your device to third parties;
- Sending SMS messages to premium rate numbers;
- Subscribing your phone to premium services;
- Recording your phone conversations;
- Taking control of the phone; and
- Downloading other malicious apps onto the phone to create a perfect storm of app carnage.
Telemarketers and scammers are targeting cell phones the way they used to target land lines.
There’s a growing trend of scammers sending spam messages through SMS, or of intentionally creating missed calls.
The scam messages are often from people pretending to send messages to the wrong address. If you reply to the message the reply is routed to a premium rate service and you could be charged for the text. Another variation is the advertisement or lottery announcement to get you to reply to or call a premium rate number.
With the missed number, the scammer calls and lets the phone ring just long enough for it to register as a call, then hangs up before you can answer. If you call the number back, you could end up calling a premium rate number and getting charged. Another variation is the voice mail message reporting lottery winnings or something similar.
How Mobile Security Apps Work
Mobile security apps serve multiple purposes.
- They have standard virus and malicious software protection, which is crucial when you’re surfing website and downloading apps. They also can detect if an installed app it’s a security threat and alert you that certain applications or accessing private data, your wireless card, and any other data that’s on your device.
- They can help you detect or locate your device if it’s misplaced or stolen. A lot of them use location services or GPS services on your device to tell you where it is at that moment. So if you accidentally leave your device at a restaurant or if somebody takes your device the app can tell you where it is.
- They can help you remotely shutdown the device, or remotely wipe all the data from the device, so that if it is lost or stolen, and someone tries to access it you data, they won’t get anything.
- They can also automatically backup your data onto a secure server, so that if you do have wipe you data, you can restore it to your old device or to a new device fairly easily.
Securing Your Device
First, you should set a lock screen password with at least six digits. A four-digit code is good, but it’s also easier to crack. That lock screen code is the first line of defense against someone accessing your information, especially in situations where you might not realize that your device has been tampered with – such as someone picking it up from your desk when you’re not looking.
Second, avoid leaving your device lying around. It’s better to be that guy who takes his phone with him to the bathroom, than that guy who just had his phone stolen from him by a blind date. If you take your device to the gym, lock it up or secure it to your body somehow, so that you’re not likely to leave it lying around.
Third, install mobile security software onto your device. You can buy an individual mobile security app from a reputable company, like Trend Micro, McAffee, or Norton, or you can purchase one as part of a PC or Mac security package, so that all of your devices are protected by the same software.
Having mobile devices presents unique challenges in the modern digital age. However Internet security software has advanced to the point that it can rise to those challenges and keep your mobile devices as secure and protected as your Home computer.