September 12th, 2018 | Updated on November 22nd, 2019
Portable devices like Smartphones, laptops, tablets, and smartwatches are an inseparable part of modern society. Many organizations aim to spread out their mobility in order to fabricate stronger customer relationships across a variety of channels and mediums.
Today people connect their smartphone to the internet in order to check emails, socialize, search and share information, do some banking, download apps, buy goods, avail discounts and online coupons, make payments to point-of-sale and much more.
This unintentionally provides a lot of information to servers involved in mobile operations, which might interest the cybercriminals.
Traditionally laptops and computers come with security measures like antiviruses, firewalls, and encryptions. Unfortunately, the mobile phone security has not been implemented in conjunction with the rising popularity and the usage of phones.
Most of the mobile devices do not have inbuilt or pre-installed security mechanisms like traditional laptops and PCs.
Increased internet connectivity and convenience to perform personal tasks have few loopholes in phones which make it vulnerable to cyber attacks that gain access to sensitive data like bank account information after hacking a user’s smartphone.
As lightweight and compact Smartphones make storing and transmitting data possible just at a tap the need for securing them is natural. Now let us look why mobile security is important.
Inside Mobile Applications Development
- Like the desktops and servers, mobile applications involve a peculiar user interface, an operating system and a programming language(s). The most known operating systems (OS) are Apple’s iOS which is based on C programming, Google’s Android-based on Java programming and others like Linux are based on Unix.
- All OS support multiple and varied applications for particular functionalities as compared to the standard highly integrated functionality of the desktop software packages like Microsoft or Adobe. Due to this the mobile application development majorly differs in requirements and coding practices across platforms.
- Major types being Native Applications (built for a specific operating system e.g., iOS/Android), Hybrid Applications (developed to access native device capabilities & used on multiple platforms using web technologies) and Mobile Web Applications (Allow user to interact with websites like ebay.com and run code in the device’s browser without residing on the device itself).
Targeting Mobile devices is Easy
- As described earlier smartphones have evolved and are used with rapid pace, providing less scope to devise truly robust security mechanisms.
- Social networking and e-commerce applications have enabled users to share their personal data in order to buy or connect worldwide. Thus creating loopholes that are leveraged by malicious applications to steal data from social networking sites and yield severe consequences in many instances.
- IT giants like Apple utilizes various security techniques and quality measures to protect their applications from being compromised by malicious cyber attackers and recommend using only digitally signed Apple apps. However, cyber attacks still happen on other OS due to the fact of being open sourced and free applications as security policies suffer shortcomings as they cannot specify to which application rights / permissions are given because they depend on users/OS to make that guess.
- Let us admit that a niche in cybersecurity software technology is designed specifically for the mobile operating system is still a challenge. Computer scientist, IT engineers and professionals are still exploring the variations of smartphones and traditional browsers in terms of cyber attacks prevention.
Mobile Browser Size and Touch Screens
- Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or the website address is the first way to ensure the legitimacy of a website and the first line of defense from cyber threats. Due to the small screen size address bar on mobile browsers, sometimes u can’t guess if it is still secure when you first visit new links.
- Also, the SSL encryption and certificates are trickier to find in a mobile browser which adds up to the security flaw.
- Due to touch screen facility, one might accidentally click on the malicious link that was cleverly placed underneath a beautiful and catchy message or an image by cyber attackers.
Unsecured Wi-Fi and Unintentional Data Leakages
- With the BYOD policy employees can carry their personal devices to the workplace, café, pubs and social places where they would like to save on their personal data plans and connect to free Wi-Fi. However, those free Wi-Fi networks may have cyber attackers/hackers waiting for a weak target. This is known as network spoofing.
- Also, those free mobile apps that ask for permissions to your contacts, SMS texts, photos etc can be hostile enterprise versions that would transmit all your personal and corporate data to unsecure servers. One can avoid this by tactfully granting only a few permissions or totally avoiding apps that ask for too much permissions.
- Another issue with free apps is that they use poor encryption algorithms altogether, creating backdoors to crack passwords and gain access.
- The various smart devices from RFID chips, thermostats inside your home and kitchen appliances are connected through the Internet of Things(IoT). The latter makes it difficult to monitor the aforementioned elements and as a result malware or hackers can get entry points and damage your goods.
Now that we know the importance of mobile security, below are some simple tips that help secure mobile devices.
- Install and update anti-virus and security software provided by a well-known cybersecurity vendor.
- Take regular backups of your phone.
- Always use an encryption application to safeguard sensitive information on your phone.
- Enable two-factor authentication when available.
- Use fingerprint locks as they are safer than passwords.
- Use VPNs when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks and avoid connecting if possible.
- Opt for Google Play Protect if you use Android devices. Enable the ‘Verify Apps’ feature from the settings and keep “unknown sources” disabled whenever not required.