More so than ever we are hearing news about another new malware attack, phishing attempts, and hacker interventions, hearing this, our mind automatically starts thing about how this will affect me (my) private and business life as well as the everyday use of my desktop and laptop. It’s a reasonable concern, data security should never be taken lightly, but too often we forget about our mobile devices and that they are also exposed to the same amount and kind of risk.
Smartphones and tablets have become much more than our personal and on the go assistant, more than ever these devices store an abundance of personal information including personal and business documents and emails, personal and business financial data, photos, medical records, and other private information. With all this at the fingertips of a hacker, are we surprised that devices have become the new playing field for cybercriminals in 2018?
Mobile and device fraudsters are getting more clever and cunning each day, making the average, an everyday user (the biggest target group) exposed to the raid of attacks, scams, and hoaxes. Device frauds can generally take a variety of forms and tend to have a ‘domino effect’ – on things leads to another and before you know it your whole device is ‘playing up’; and somewhere in the world, a hackers dreams have come true. Fear not, there is the help and there are steps and measures you can take to make your device more secure.
So what are the most common forms of fraud targeting mobile users and how they are affecting your device, let’s take a look:
- Phishing – Still the most common way to the identity theft, account hijacking and loss of personal data and information.
- Subscription Fraud – Closely connected with phishing and one of the most common types of fraud on mobile devices.
- Large Scale Data Breach – Hackers often target big online stores that might have less than perfect data security in an attempt to steal large assets of user data including name, credit card numbers, email address, social security numbers etc.
- Phantom Apps – Applications that originate from an unverified developer often designed to gather user data and financial info.
- Fraudulent Websites – Fake websites designed to look just like popular online stores and services like Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Gmail, etc.
- Malicious Ads – Ads that can be found on shady websites leading you to phantom apps and other types of malware.
- Stolen or Lost Device – Not an uncommon situation, but when it happens, you should immediately remotely lock your device before someone misuses your data.
As you can see, fraudsters and scammers are always on the lookout to find new security exploits and fresh avenues for their malicious actions. So, how can you protect your mobile devices and your data? Luckily, there are several steps you can take to strengthen your device security, which include:
Install Antivirus/Security Software
Security software for mobile devices is not as sophisticated and determined in comparison with desktop versions, but never the less, it can give you the edge in building a safer mobile environment. If you are familiar with antivirus software for desktop computers, you will be happy to learn that many of the popular providers also offer mobile versions as well, they include big names like; AVG Antivirus, Avast Mobile Security, Avira Antivirus Security, and Bitdefender Antivirus. A good majority of these apps are free, and for added security, you can choose a premium security solution, which generally comes at some slight cost. So how do they keep you safe you might ask? Basically, these apps are designed to monitor active processes and apps, their behavior, your network activity and based on information and data gathered, you will be offered advice and solutions to keep your device as secure as possible.
Always Choose Strong Passwords
Increasingly we are getting ‘lazy’ with our passwords and more often than not we are opting for simple and in translation, easily hackable passwords for our online accounts. We get to the point of not being able to keep up with all the passwords we have to go for the ‘this is easy to type and remember’ mode and in turn expose ourselves to greater fraud risk. No matter how such a password can seem convenient, you should be aware that they represent one of the highest security risks for your data, especially if they are set to protect your bank account and finances. So, consider updating your passwords to something more secure.
The safe password does not need to be a random string of letters, numbers, and symbols. You can easily create a secure password by yourself. For example, choose three words that mean something to you, they can be the names of your children, fictional characters, food, etc. I’ll give you an example of just how easy it can be. I’m going to use my favorite cities: Berlin, London, and Madrid. All three written together can already be a very strong password, but I’ll add some numbers 242 in between as a reference to my favorite band Front 242. So in the end, my password looks like this: “Berlin2London4Madrid2”. You’ll agree that this is a much stronger solution than “password123” or something similar.
Be Smart and Educate Yourself
We understand that not everyone is tech-savvy and interested in the latest and greatest news in the field of cybersecurity, but one of the best methods to stay safe and protect yourself from frauds is to be updated and informed on what’s going on in the online world. As Ian Davis (IT Manager at Flatfy) sensibly instructs “the best advice would be to install some of the apps dedicated to bringing you tech news and from time to time check out their articles about online security. That way you will be informed on latest malware and hacker attacks, be warned what apps should be avoided, you’ll know if any online store that you use (or had used in the past) have had their security breach, etc.”
Likewise, you need to be clever and smart when surfing the net. A piece of easy to remember advice is to; avoid visiting shady websites that promise you free stuff (software, movies, music, etc.). Most often, pages like these will infect your device with viruses, keyloggers and steal your info.
Also, you should never install apps from the unofficial third-party marketplaces. Always use verified apps from Google Play Store and iTunes.
Turn Off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
It is advised to turn off both wi-fi and Bluetooth when you are not using them. When these data channels are active you are potentially open for transmitting your data on large networks with numerous connected devices and users. Public and open wi-fi networks are especially dangerous, like those in airports, coffee shops, restaurants, hospitals. First of all, your data is unencrypted and as such can be easily intercepted and misused by fraudsters and cybercriminals. As expected, they are most interested in logging info for your banking app, general credit card information, as well as for your social accounts and similar services for the identity theft.
Other than that, public wi-fi can be used exploited for spreading malware and planting keyloggers on your mobile devices. Alex Hudson writes more about this in The Guardian.
Always Keep Your Device and Apps Updated
We understand that constant updates on your mobile devices can be annoying, but, leaving them outdated is high-security risk these days. For example, one of the most damaging malware attacks (known as WannaCry) is famous for targeting outdated Windows 7 users. A similar scenario to this is not uncommon to happen on mobile devices. Hackers can potentially find a loophole in Android and iOS, or some random app, and install ransomware on mobile devices. Although developers are usually very quick to address these issues with critical security patches, those users who have automatic updates turned off are at risk. So if you have automatic updates disabled, be sure to turn them on and update your device and apps with the latest versions.
Mobile devices and their everyday usage are still on the rise, today, we use them for practically everything; entertainment, communication, banking, web browsing – you name it. With their increased popularity and rapidly growing user base, no one is surprised that they have become such a big target for online criminals and fraudsters. Luckily, with available security solutions, and some education and useful information, it is easy to stay vigorous and freely use your mobile device to its full potential.