TitleBytes News & Happenings

GOING MOBILE (with apologies to The Who and ALTA InfoSec)

Apr 5, 2018

Mobile Device Security
Tablets and smartphones have become the tools we use to enable our ever-increasing technology-laden personal and professional lives. These devices are mobile and very easy to use and give us the choice of countless numbers of apps to make us more available to communicate and productive. These devices and apps also open us up to more potential security weaknesses and ways in which to get hacked. In addition to shopping at legitimate websites, you want to ensure your computer or mobile device is secure. Cyber criminals will try to infect your devices so they can harvest your bank accounts, credit card information and passwords. Take the following steps to keep your devices secured:

If you have children in your house, consider having two devices: one for your children and one for adults. Kids are curious and interactive with technology. As a result, they are more likely to infect their own device. By using a separate computer or tablet just for online banking and shopping, you reduce the chance of becoming infected. If separate devices are not an option, you may want to consider separate accounts on the shared computer and ensure your children do not have administrative privileges. Only connect to wireless networks you manage, such as your home network or networks you trust when making financial transactions. Public Wi-Fi networks available at your local coffee shop may be great for reading the news, but not for accessing your bank account.

Obtaining Mobile Apps
The first step is making sure you always download mobile applications from a safe, trusted source. Remember, just about anyone can create a mobile app, so you have to be careful where you get them. Cyber criminals have honed their skills at creating and distributing infected mobile apps that appear to be legitimate. If you install one of these infected apps, criminals can take control of your mobile device to read your emails, listen to your conversations and harvest your contacts. By downloading apps from only well-known, trusted sources, you reduce the chance of installing an infected app. What you may not realize is the brand of mobile device you use determines your options.

For Apple devices, such as an iPad or iPhone, you can only download mobile apps from a managed environment: the Apple App Store. The advantage is Apple does a security check of both the mobile apps and their authors. While Apple cannot catch all the bad guys or all the infected mobile apps, this managed environment helps to dramatically reduce the risk of installing an infected app. In addition, if Apple finds an app in its store that it believes is infected, it will quickly remove the mobile app. Windows Phone and Android mobile devices use different approaches than Apple. Android gives you more flexibility by being able to download a mobile app from anywhere on the Internet. However, with this flexibility comes more responsibility. You have to be more careful about what mobile apps you download and install, as not all of them are reviewed. Google’s app store is called Google play, which is similar to Apple. The mobile apps you download from Google Play have had some basic checks. As such, we recommend you download your mobile apps for Android devices only from Google Play. Avoid downloading Android mobile apps from other websites, as anyone, including cyber criminals, can easily create and distribute malicious mobile apps and trick you into infecting your mobile device. As an additional protection, consider installing anti-virus on your mobile device.

To reduce your risk even more, avoid apps that are brand new, that few people have downloaded or that have very few positive comments. The longer an app has been available or the more positive comments it has, the more likely that app can be trusted. In addition, install only the apps you need and use. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this app?” Not only does each app potentially bring new vulnerabilities, but also new privacy issues. If you stop using an app, remove it from your mobile device. (You can always add it back later if you find you need it.)

Finally, you may be tempted to jailbreak or root your mobile device. This is the process of hacking into it and installing unapproved apps or changing existing, built-in functionality. We highly recommend against jailbreaking or rooting, as it not only bypasses or eliminates many of the security controls built into your mobile device, but often also voids warranties and support contracts.

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