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Protect Your Devices

mobile-devicesMobile devices such as phones, tablets and laptops have become one of the primary ways we communicate and interact with each other.  The power of a computer is now at our fingertips, allowing us to talk or send messages to virtually anyone around the world.  However, with all these convenient features come risks.  Attacks aimed at mobile devices are progressing much more rapidly than attacks aimed at PCs.

What are the risks?

Loss & theft

One of greatest features about mobile devices is being able to take them wherever you go.  This portability makes them susceptible to loss or theft.  Once in the hands of someone else, all of your private information such as emails, text messages, contacts, photos and even browsing history can be recovered.

Mobile devices come with the ability to set a passcode or password to gain access to and use the device.  To protect yourself, be sure to set up a passcode or password on your mobile device to keep it locked if lost or stolen.    This helps to prevent unauthorized individuals from gaining access to your data.  I will talk about tools to help find your device in a future post.

You can also set an idle timeout that will automatically lock the device when not in use.  This also prevents unauthorized access to your data.

Text message phishing

Short Message Service (SMS) allows you to quickly send and receive short text messages.  These messages have become a common method for attackers to fool users into giving personal information.  Similar to traditional email, attackers send SMS messages that appear to be from someone you trust or from an organization such as your bank.  That trust is then exploited by the attacker who is pretending to be your bank and asks you for personal information.  Smishing is the term used for phishing attacks via SMS.

As with email, do not trust any message that asks you for your personal information.  Even if you can verify the sender, be sure to ask why your personal information is being requested.

Vulnerabilities

Cyber criminals are always looking for new vulnerabilities in mobile devices.  Vulnerabilities are unintended flaws in a system or in software that pose a threat like exposing personal data.

Keeping your software up to date, including operating systems and installed apps, helps protect your device from attack and compromise.  Do not “jailbreak” or “root” your device.  This removes the manufacturer’s protection against malware and removes any security measures that were originally in place.

Obtain your apps from trusted sources such as the Apple iTunes Store, Google Play, Windows Phone Store or the Amazon App Store for Android.  This helps you to avoid malware that is commonly distributed through apps.

Next Tuesday’s Topic:  Shoulder Surfing

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Christina Bonds

Christina Bonds is an Application Specialist in the Web Technology department at Elon University.

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