Five tips to safeguard your mobile interactions

Paul Korzeniowski | Contributor
Last updated: January 5, 2021
Five tips to safeguard your mobile interactions

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Mobile devices have modern architecture, so the perception is that they are secure. That’s actually wrong.  Hackers have had success compromising these devices, so consumers must take steps to protect themselves and their personal information.

The problems start when you download software from your favorite app store. Rather than legitimate solutions, many are malware hiding in plain sight. In fact, RiskIQ examined 8 million mobile apps and found that more than 200,000 were malware. So, how can you secure your system?

1. Beware of grayware

Technically, grayware, which is programs like spyware and adware, is not malware but can potentially be just as harmful. These solutions are quite popular: in fact, their numbers increased by almost 20%, according to Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report.

These applications are designed to run in the background and observe user interactions.

Problems arise because often consumers do not know they have installed those applications.

Grayware’s non-intrusive nature beckons hackers, who increasingly are taking advantage of its sometimes weak security features.

In fact, 63% of grayware applications leaked phone numbers, while 37% reported the phone’s physical location, according to Symantec.

So, what can you do?

Regularly scan your system and make sure that your phone has not inadvertently downloaded these apps.

2. Be careful with your entertainment applications

Hackers look for the largest pool of potential victims, so the most popular apps attract the most malware.

Lifestyle (27%) and the Music & Audio categories (20%) were the two most targeted by the bad guys, according to Symantec. Before you blindly download an app that sounds too good to be true, research it and determine if it may be malware rather than a legitimate solution.

3. Keep your system software current

Security holes emerge over time as the bad guys continuously poke at software and look for potential holes. Typically, vendors respond quickly to a known bug, but then the onus falls on the user to keep their device updated.

Increasingly, mobile systems automatically update operating systems and security tools, but not all solutions operate in this way. But you want to check regularly and make sure that your system is running the latest version of its system software.

4. Do not customize your phone’s security settings

Users sometimes try to skirt established system settings, either because they do not trust them or they want to use their phone in “interesting” ways. They disable security controls so they can personalize the system or enable blocked functions.

In some cases, premium apps that they would otherwise pay for can be downloaded and installed for free once they alter the device. The problem is individuals sometimes do not fully understand the ramifications from such a switch. Disabling a device overrides the inherent security features and can open up a backdoor that the criminals can then use to compromise your system.

5. Isolate your IoT devices

Increasingly, vendors are connecting IoT devices, like physical fitness trackers, to smartphones. Many IoT devices have little memory and limited processing power, so their security features are not as robust as your smartphone.

The bad guys always look for the easiest entry point, and the IoT chip becomes it. To avoid the problems, individuals may set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) between the two devices; it will keep your private information.

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As mobile devices have become more popular, they have been more attractive targets for hackers. Consequently, individuals need to protect themselves, and following these five tips is a good start. As for the fifth one, you should also consider using a VPN on your smartphone even if you don’t own any IoT devices. Picking whichever service from our best Android VPN or best iOS VPN list will help encrypt your traffic and protect your personal data.

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