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6 Common Misconceptions About Mobile Device Security

In 2018, victims of cybercrime lost a collective $2.7 billion. Security breaches, cyber attacks and attacks on individuals’ devices are not a problem that’s going away anytime soon. Here are six common misconceptions about phone security that can put you at risk, and what you can do to mitigate that risk.

Victorio Duran III

Victorio Duran III

11/26/2021

Tags

Education
Guest Post

So, here’s a fun question for you: how secure is your mobile device?

It’s a question everyone loves to hate. We’d all rather forget that our phones likely watch us just as much as we watch them. No one wants to think that, especially when they’re on video chat!

But consider this:

At least 1 billion mobile phones are at risk of being hacked.

It sounds quite scary, doesn’t it?

Well… Yeah. But also, when you think about it, not really.

You’ve read the headlines before, they’re always some variation of ‘Hackers leak millions of passwords’. The only difference you see is the number sometimes changes from millions to billions. Heck, sometimes it’s even trillions.

Yet, somehow, you’ve never had your password leaked. With all these leaks, in fact, you’re probably the exception that proves the rule. It stands to reason that if your accounts are safe, the chances are your phone is safe too.

And you know what? We agree. Sort of. Not really. Actually, not at all.

Think about it like this: even if you’re not at risk of being hacked now, how likely is it that you will be in the future?

We’d say ‘pretty likely’.

2.5 billion accounts were hacked in 2018 alone. That’s 6.85 million every day or 158 every second. Just one of those needs to be yours before your whole mobile’s potentially compromised.

No matter how lucky you’ve been before, at some point, your luck will run out.

To put the risks into perspective, listen to this:

In 2018, victims of cybercrime lost a collective $2.7 billion.

So what can we do to keep you a statistical anomaly for as long as possible? What misconceptions are likely to get your security breached? And what’s the real truth you need to know?

Here are six common misconceptions about phone security that we’ll do you the favor of debunking.

Image Source: Computerworld

Misconception #1: Apps from official app stores are safe

You may not believe every new app you come across is safe. But you could easily think that those on official app stores are better than most, right?

We’re sorry to say you’re wrong. In 2019, mobile security provider Symantec reported that, of all phones surveyed, 1 in 36 were found to have high-risk apps installed.

But there’s good news and bad news to this, so you don’t need to delete those screen sharing apps for businesses just yet.

Let’s unpack the good news first. The majority of these high-risk apps appear to have been downloaded from unofficial app stores.

Phew.

The bad news is that not even official app stores are safe. Both Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store have had their fair share of troubles.

On both stores, dozens of apps have been found by third parties to have distributed malware to tens of thousands of devices.

That’s despite the hundreds of hurdles put in place for developers to prove their apps are safe. They also remove apps that they suspect have malware on them. Thereby deleting the kind of threats that even remote IT support would be hard-pressed to address.

When guarding the safety of your mobile device, it’s no longer enough to trust the app store you use. You have to consider the developer itself: does it have an established track record? Does it have a clear-cut way to troubleshoot reported problems with a dedicated team on hand to help?

If the answers to those two questions are both ‘no’, then you may want to reconsider.

Image Source: Ars Technica

Misconception #2: You don’t need multi-factor authentication

We’re going to go ahead and bust this misconception wide open for you. You absolutely need multi-factor authentication.

In one data breach, of the 1.2 million hacked accounts, 99.9% had one thing in common: they didn’t have two-factor authentication.

We’re all aware of how 2FA works. Whenever we log in, we get an email or message with a passcode. It’s simple enough that we all get it, but too often it’s not standard practice for every account we have.

It should be.

2FA turns your mobile phone into the most effective password you’ve ever had. It doesn’t matter how many numbers, symbols, and capital letters you have in your login details. If you don’t have 2FA, you’re at serious risk.

You may argue that complex passwords still have a place. That they make it more difficult for hackers to password spray your account. That’s all true.

However, phishing scams can handle even the most complex passwords with total ease. That’s because, in most cases, you’re the one entering the information.

It’s why phishing scams are such a headache for businesses trying to establish secure company communications. They use their own employees to breach their security.

With 2FA though, even if your password is stolen, sold, or discovered, your hacker still can’t access your account. Make it standard for all your accounts.

Misconception #3: Most mobile phones come with pre-installed firewalls

It can’t be understated just how important this misconception can be...

But first things first, what are firewalls?

Image Source: Netstar

Firewalls act pretty much as this illustration suggests. They block external parties from accessing your computer.

How exactly?

They scan incoming traffic from the internet against a set list of predetermined criteria to root out viruses and malware.

So even if you try to download a seemingly safe attachment from a group calendar, that will be scanned for viruses too. Just to be sure. If it’s not safe, the firewall will prevent the virus from infiltrating your computer.

The dangerous thing about firewalls is that they’re such an integral part of mobile security. So much so that it can seem odd that major brands would release phones without them pre-installed.

That presumption can lead mobile users to access insecure websites and files. Even a quick google to answer a simple question, like ‘what are SKUs?’, can compromise your mobile device.

If you’re unsure about whether your device is protected, there is plenty of free firewall software that can take care of this. Just make sure it’s delivered by a reputable provider.

Misconception #4: Public wifi is secure

Public wifi is everywhere. It’s a fantastic option for anyone in a tight spot. Better yet it’s available everywhere from your nearest cafe to hotels, airports, and even schools.

Yet public wifi is still one of the biggest security risks to your mobile device.

For starters, public wifi is fundamentally less secure than your private, home, or office-based wifi. That’s because the data transmitted across the connection may not be private.

It’s often extremely easy to tell whether a public connection is safe. ‘Unsecured’ wifi networks can be accessed by anyone. As a result, unsuspecting users of public wifi networks can fall victim to man-in-the-middle attacks.

An MitM attack positions the hacker in between two points of communication. In this case, between the user and the site they’re visiting. The man (or woman!) in the middle can then strip away any traffic encryptions and view the information directly.

Whilst the majority of public wifi networks are secured, it’s best to treat them as if they aren’t. For this reason, when using public wifi, you should never attempt to access private information such as an online bank account.

If you do, it’s all too easy for hackers to monetize your data.

Image Source: The Real Deal

Misconception #5: Your mobile phone can’t spy on you when it’s turned off

This one’s true! Well, mostly.

As we all spend more time online, from virtual classrooms to zoom calls, it’s fair to say we could use a break from the cameras.

For most of us, that means simply locking our phone and returning it to our pocket. But that doesn’t mean hackers still can’t access our cameras, not to mention the whole device.

Should particular viruses infect your device, they can gain total control. That can enable hackers to remotely unlock your phone and record you.

Whilst this represents a very real risk to your privacy, what that doesn’t mean is that they can turn your phone on or off. Only you can do that.

In the case that you believe your phone’s been compromised, turning the device off can be one way of gaining total privacy before accessing support.

Misconception #6: Mobile security still isn’t important

Hopefully it’s clear to you by now why we think mobile security should be at the top of everyone’s agenda.

But for every company with a sound security system in place, there are ten more that don’t go the extra mile when it comes to mobile security.

Companies often fail to adequately evaluate the security of mobile devices that have been distributed to their employees. Far too few recognize the fact that mobile security is the single biggest issue that should be at the top of their agenda. And fewer still recognize employee education on the matter, particularly when it comes to using free wifi.

Companies need to distribute guidance on best practices to all of their employees. It should be considered a key part of any security system currently in place.

If you believe you aren’t being properly educated, get in touch with your IT team and see what they have to offer. They might, after everything we’ve discussed, have plenty up their sleeves to surprise you.

This could be the very thing that keeps you a statistical anomaly for just a while longer.

And there you have it: six busted misconceptions about mobile device security. So whether you’re googling alternatives to Slack or ‘what is robotic process automation (RPA)’, you can do so safely and securely.

And if you’re looking for more tips on how to get the most from your mobile device, check out our other blogs at metageek.com for key insights and best practices.

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