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Smartphones – Security Risks and Counter Measures

In the thrill of getting a new smartphone, many of us often forget or overlook the importance of data security. However, this is a particularly pertinent issue since most of us use the smartphone for both work and personal purposes. In the event of the data being hacked into, this would mean the invasion of personal privacy or even the loss of sensitive confidential work-related information. According to a recent survey by the Ponemon Institute, commissioned by AVG Technologies, on smartphone use, 66% of U.S. users said that they kept a significant amount of personal data on their smartphones. Such personal data included email address, name, contact lists, photos, videos, anniversary and personal dates, as well as personal tastes in music, movies and books.

What most smartphone users are not aware of is the vulnerability of the information stored in the device. According to security experts, there are several risks commonly faced by smartphone users.

  • The basic security protections of most smartphones can be easily disabled by jailbreaking, making the smartphones vulnerable to spyware or malware attacks.
  • If the smartphone connects to the Internet via an insecure local WiFi network, this increases its vulnerability to virus attacks.
  • If not properly secured, confidential user information such as credit card or online banking details on the smartphone could be easily hacked into by others.
  • Some smartphone apps may contain spyware or specialized malware that either allows others to access the private information on the smartphone or control the smartphone for other purposes at the user’s expense.

The list above is not an exhaustive one, though it does reflect the importance of ensuring the security of the information stored in our smartphones. So how do we protect our smartphones from such risks?

  1. Physical security
    • For starters, don’t lose your phone or leave it out of your sight, especially in public places.
    • Secondly, set your phone to lock out after a period of time and use a good alphanumeric password.
    • Utilize a service that allows you to remotely wipe your phone in the event it is lost and irretrievable.  (We obviously recommend Kerio Connect Mail Hosting or Kerio Connect Mail Server!)
      • By integrating this service with Kerio Connect, your email, calendar, contacts, and reminders are always synced and backed up.
  2. Update your smartphone’s OS security features.
    • This is your smartphone’s first line of defense against any possible hacking or introduction of malicious viruses, malware or spyware.
  3. Be careful when downloading third party apps.
    • Think carefully before granting the necessary level of privileges for each app. While most smartphone OSs have a centralized application-store screening process, this is not a foolproof solution.

 

While the abovementioned measures would greatly help to enhance your smartphone security, the onus is still on the user himself or herself to be careful.  After all, the best security always begins with the end user!

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