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Smartphone Security Threats and Viruses | Business Hub |®

Smartphone Security Threats and Viruses

Don’t fall asleep when it comes to smartphone security. These devices can be as vulnerable to threats as any computer can be.

Make no mistake; your smartphone is a computer. You check your email on your smartphone, log into your financial accounts and connect with your company’s network through these mobile devices. And like any computer, your smartphone is vulnerable — to viruses, malware and hackers.

As a smartphone owner, and a small-business operator whose employees use smartphones, you need to know the threats these devices are open to and how to nip these issues in the bud. Your company’s security depends on it.

Threats to Smartphones Are on the Rise

The bad news is trickling out: Cyber criminals are targeting smartphone users, with security threats to these mobile devices more than doubling in 2011. Hackers are well aware of how many people now use smartphones, and how much can be gained by forcing entry into such devices and stealing the information they contain.

•    Malware. Just as with PCs, smartphones are vulnerable to malware, insidious software that burrows into your device’s operating system to extract information, track your activity and even jump from your smartphone to your PC when you dock the devices later. Some malware can use a vulnerable smartphone to gain access to a company network, exposing you to large-scale data theft.

As with PCs, hackers often depend on smartphone users to aid them in their work, waiting for you to download infected apps, click on harmful links in text messages or emails or surf the web using insecure Wi-Fi connections.

•    Viruses. Smartphones have not yet been subjected to many large-scale viral attacks, mostly because these devices use a variety of operating systems, limiting the effectiveness of one-size-fits-all viruses. Nonetheless, smartphones are vulnerable, and some experts predict increased viral attacks as hackers focus more on system weaknesses.

•    Phishing. Phishing is when criminals trick users into volunteering sensitive information (they’re “phishing” for personal data). Phishing schemes are alive and well in the smartphone universe. In such schemes, emails or texts that appear to come from banks or credit card companies ask for account numbers and other personal details. As an added twist, hackers may first compromise your smartphone to extract basic information and make their queries look more legitimate.

Shoring Up Smartphone Vulnerabilities

If your company’s smartphones haven’t been victimized by these threats, that’s excellent news, but it shouldn’t lull you to sleep regarding network and data security. An unprotected smartphone is a serious liability. Any protection you provide to your PCs should be extended to your smartphones as well:

•    Virus and malware protection. Each smartphone that accesses your network should be equipped with the latest virus protection software. Regular updates are required.

•    Data encryption. All data sent to and from smartphones should be encrypted to prevent theft and to stop hackers from “listening in” as passwords and log-in info are transmitted. Firewalls should also be installed.

•    Smartphone locking. Smartphones can be lost or stolen, and thus all devices should be equipped with auto-locking and passwords. Also, equip phones with remote data-wiping capability.

Employee education. Employees using smartphones should be made aware that their devices are as vulnerable to threats as their computers. They should know that downloading unauthorized apps, opening suspicious emails or clicking links in text messages can be dangerous. Any requests for personal or company information should always be met with skepticism.

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