As smartphones have become an essential feature of everyday life, they’ve also become a target for hackers. Understanding the fraud risks associated with smartphones is the first step in staying secure.

Many risks of Smartphones

Unlike traditional computers, smartphones rarely contain technical security measures, such as firewalls and antivirus protections, and mobile operating systems aren’t updated as frequently as those on personal computers (PCs). Yet users routinely store sensitive information — including contact information, emails, text messages and passwords — on these devices. In addition, apps can record personally identifiable information.

You’re at risk even if you keep little sensitive information on your phone. Hackers often trick phone owners, or their contacts, into revealing confidential information. Using malicious software, a hacker can control a phone by adding its number to a network of devices (called a “botnet”). Smartphones can also spread viruses to PCs — a big problem for companies with bring your own device (BYOD) policies.

Access points

Attackers gain access to smartphones through various avenues. Sometimes a thief obtains physical access, as when a phone is lost or stolen. More frequently, a hacker achieves virtual access by, for example, sending a phishing email that coaxes the recipient into clicking a link that installs malicious software.

Apps can be dangerous, too. You might install an app that turns out to be malicious or a legitimate app with weaknesses an attacker can exploit.

Protective measures

There are several steps you can take to reduce the odds of a damaging assault on your smartphone, starting with encryption. When data is encrypted, it’s scrambled and unreadable to anyone who can’t provide a unique key to open it.

When available, two-step authentication is advisable. This approach adds a layer of authentication by calling the phone or sending a password via text message before allowing the user to log in. It’s also important to enable all of your phone’s security features, which may include:

  • Remote find-and-wipe capabilities,
  • The ability to delete known malicious apps remotely, and
  • Touch ID and fingerprint sensors.

Conversely, you should disable interfaces such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not in use.

Evolving threat

Just as smartphone technologies are evolving rapidly, so are threats to their security. Take necessary precautions to protect these valuable but vulnerable devices. For more ways to protect your data, contact us.

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