Smartphone, Tablet Security: 10 Lessons to LearnBy Channel Insider Staff | Posted 2011-12-09 Email Print
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News Analysis: Smartphone and tablet security is a hot-button issue right now, but unfortunately, not enough people know what's going on. Here are some assumptions to make about security on these devices to avoid being victimized.
It wasn't long ago that Symbian was the only mobile software dealing with an inordinate number of security problems, due to its popularity. But now that Android and iOS have started to dominate the marketplace, the number of mobile threats impacting consumers and enterprise users around the globe has skyrocketed. What's worse, the threats mobile device users face are becoming more sophisticated by the day, which is also increasing the amount a damage and cost of a mobile device security breach.
But even with those troubles, consumers and even some corporate IT executives don't seem to be all that knowledgeable about the threats they face. Mobile security woes are still in their infancy, and the vast majority of consumers and enterprise users place much of their focus on the desktop, where spam, phishing scams and malware have been a part of their lives for years.
The time has come, however, for mobile device users to shift their focus. Cyber-criminals around the world are turning to smartphones and tablets to exploit personal information for their own gain. And they will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Therefore, the only defense is knowledge and vigilance.
Read on to find out about the many important things to know related to smartphone and tablet security.
1. Android is a nightmare
Android is quickly becoming the top destination for cyber-criminals for two main reasons: It's popular and there aren't enough checks in place to safeguard the operating system. In fact, adding an application to the Android Market is as simple as signing up as a developer and making it available. Before Google has a chance to remove a bad app, tens of thousands of devices could be infected. It's a serious problem.
2. The threats are on the rise
Mobile security threats are getting worse. Android malware samples alone are up 472 percent in the second half of this year. What's more, cyber-criminals are also targeting iOS, Symbian and other operating systems. Malware creators are seeing real opportunities on the mobile front, and it's time we acknowledge that.
3. Apps can be a problem
As noted, Android applications can be filled with security problems. But it's not just Android. Even iOS- and BlackBerry-based applications can cause security issues if they're improperly protected or include links to malicious Websites. As the popularity of mobile applications continues to soar, expect security woes to increase with it.
4. Users are making themselves insecure
Mobile device users are partly to blame for the security woes impacting the globe right now. Consumers are surfing to unsafe sites, downloading applications without verifying their sources, and generally engaging in behavior that exposes them to malware and fraud. It's about time they start thinking about security first and smartphone fun second.
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5. Privacy is practically nonexistent
Whenever one talks about security, they must also consider privacy. In the mobile market, it's clear, especially in light of the recent Carrier IQ controversy, that privacy doesn't exist. If consumers use their smartphones and tablets with care and take action to protect themselves, there is less chance they will suffer a personal data beach even if they're attacked by malware.
6. iOS might come into the crosshairs
Android is currently the top destination for mobile malware, but in the coming years, it's quite likely that iOS will become an increasingly popular target for cyber-criminals. After all, iPhone and iPad sales are skyrocketing and Apple's mobile market share is still quite strong. Cyber-criminals are after revenue, and they can generate that on iOS.
7. It's not just software-based
Talk of security in the mobile market typically revolves around software problems. However, it's important for product owners to know that simply having the devices can cause security issues. Is the respective smartphone or tablet password-protected? Has it been left unattended? Did someone steal it? Those threats are real, and they can result in a serious breach of security.
8. Flash really is a threat
Adobe's decision to ditch plans to offer Flash in the mobile market is a good one. Whether or not Apple haters like to admit it, Steve Jobs was right when he said Adobe's platform is a yawning security hole on the desktop. It is an equally worrisome security threat in the mobile space. Luckily, Flash won't be around much longer, but until it's eradicated from the mobile market, consider it a potential security threat.
9. The bad people are watching everything
More recently, research firms have been looking at the ways in which scammers are accessing mobile devices. Not surprisingly, they're peering into sent text messages and the phone numbers that are dialed. They reason that by accessing that information, they might be able to get sensitive data or, even better, personal information that can be used when trying to steal money from someone. The cyber-criminals are watching everything. Keep that in mind.
10. Expect the IT department to react
All these threats surrounding mobile devices are forcing the IT departments at companies around the globe to set strict mobile device policies. IT executives are limiting phone and tablet selections, banning employees from downloading applications, and even monitoring devices to ensure they're not engaging in insecure activities. It's unfortunate, but to stay safe today, constant control and surveillance is important.