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October 2013

Cybercriminals Seek Control
of Your Mobile Device

If you use an iPhone, iPAD, or Google Android smart phone, you are increasingly vulnerable to it being hacked by professional cybercriminals who seek control of your device. Control potentially includes tapping into your location, calendar, and contacts, along with documents or passwords you store on your device. We aren’t used to thinking of our smartphones or even iPADS as computers, but they are, and this causes consumers to let down their guard.

A major source of security problems are smartphone apps that are made to corrupt your device so that: 1) a thief can remotely operate your device, 2) your location and other personal information can be transferred to the thief, or 3) your contacts can be used to generate new text messages that then scam your friends and family. Juniper Network, a California-based company that often studies network security, reports the use of malicious or harmful “apps” is rapidly increasing. For the 12 months ending in March, it intercepted 276,259 malicious mobile apps, an incredible 614-percent increase over the prior 12 months.

Corrupt apps present security concerns for individuals who own smartphones, and employers might also be harmed because many employees bring their own devices and apps into the workplace and then operate them off the employer’s Internet network. A significant security breach for the employer could result when cybercriminals deploy various tricks such as corrupting apps that are downloaded by unsuspecting employees. This, in turn may lead to cybercriminals obtaining confidential business information.

Apple is an industry leader in combatting cybercriminals. Security officials praise the company for its requirement that any new app compatible with the iPhone or iPAD first pass a strict security review before it is made available through the App Store. Google also works hard to keep malicious apps out of Google Play, the Google app store. However, many consumers download apps that may not have passed such review. A recent survey determined that more than 80 percent of the paid apps raised potential security risks or privacy issues.

Protect Yourself

There are steps you should take to gain greater protection. First, only download apps from an official app store like the Apple App Store or Google Play. This will significantly lower your risk in falling victim to a cybercriminal.

Second, lock your iPhone with a passcode by tapping “Settings,” “General,” and “Passcode Lock.” Then tap “Turn Passcode On” and enter a four-digit number. The passcode encrypts the data on your iPhone when it is locked and this will help keep your personal information safe from hackers. If your smartphone operates on an Android platform, you will need to contact your service provider to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of data encryption.

Third, turn off your Wi-Fi when you aren't using it by tapping “Settings,” “Wi-Fi,” and “Off.” An open Wi-Fi signal leaves your smartphone vulnerable to hackers. You will still have Internet access through your telecommunications company’s 3G or 4G network.

Fourth, continually update your phone because updates often contain important security features.

Fifth, enter the password each time you connect to a network, instead of setting your phone to store the password. If the information is stored, copycat networks may be able gain access to your information.

Finally, some phony websites may be set up to allow hackers access to your smartphone. Never click links in unfamiliar e-mail or websites. Rather, type the website directly into the address bar.

Stay safe out there.


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