Ever heard of the black hats? And, no, we’re not talking top-hatted City bankers, but unscrupulous computer hackers. The data on your laptop and desktop might be nailed up tighter than Sing Sing prison, but what about your smartphone?
Take hacking personally
According to Intel, hacks on mobile devices rose by a factor of six in 2012. And while the UK’s Leveson Inquiry has made us all hyper-aware of mobile phone hacking, it gets worse than intercepted voice messages: because your smartphone is the repository all sorts of intimate information—your personal (or work) email, instant messages, texts, videos, photos, notes, credit and debit card information, and more—if you’re not aware of the risks of mobile hacking, you’re leaving some extremely personal data vulnerable to attack and misuse.
Phishing and scams
How much of a problem is it? Well, whilst we’re all very aware of the security risks when browsing the Web on our desktops and laptops, the research says we’re not quite so savvy when we’re using our mobile devices; in fact, mobile users are three times more likely to fall for phishing attacks or email scams than desktop users. Lookout Security warns that four in ten mobile users will click on an unsafe link this year. On a small screen, it’s harder to determine if a Web page is legitimate, and on open platforms it’s easy to download an app without checking out the developer first.
As well as phishing operations and suspect links, dodgy apps are one of the mobile user’s weaknesses: these can gain access to your contact list, phone calls, GPS location, and credit card data, often without notifying you, and they can install spyware or malware on your smartphone. Some of the most widely-reported threats in 2012 were able to send and delete SMS messages, make unauthorised phone calls, access and use your phone’s model information, and use the mobile device as a proxy. Then there are the so-called toll fraud applications, which accounted for 62% of all mobile phone threats in 2012; these bill you serious amounts for premium SMS services like wallpaper downloads.
Choose a more secure smartphone
All the signs indicate that mobile Internet users are less security-aware than their laptop and desktop-using brethren. So what can you do about it? The most sensible measure is to install anti-virus software and research the vulnerability of your OS and device before you buy it. The Nokia Lumia family of smartphones, for instance, runs on Microsoft Windows Phone 8, which has two level protection with built-in anti-phishing protection and an application integrity check.
Forewarned is forearmed
Overall best practice, though, is to be always on guard against cyber-attack. Just like with laptops, logging onto an unsecured Wi-Fi connection isn’t very sensible, especially if you’re going to be working with sensitive information. Be careful what content you download and what sites you access from your device. And, finally, make sure you always have an up-to-date back-up of the contents of your phone, just in case you do become the victim of a mobile hacker.
Happily, knowledge is power and if you know the risks, it’s very easy to take simple precautions. So, if you have any questions, or want to share your top tips, let us know in the super secure comments section below.