Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mobile Securities - CBS Early Show

According to Pew Internet Research, thirty-five percent of adult phone users are on a smartphone and this number is growing exponentially.  Our smartphones are mini computers, and, with the amount of data and information stored on them, they are targets for attack.   

As discussed on The Early Show this morning (here is link to video) I've compiled a few things to be aware of when it comes to your always-on-you device.

Where are threats coming from?
Threats can be sourced from a number of different places and fall in to a number of different categories:  malware, spyware, phishing schemes, etc. But for the sake of talking about something everyone knows, let’s start with apps. We love our apps but they’re not all as fun loving as Angry Birds.

1.) Download apps from a trusted source.
First, when it comes to apps on smartphones, download only from a trusted source - Android and Apple have both had fake apps make their way into the marketplace. Names like MacDefender and DroidDream – sound real right?  One of those was an antivirus app that snuck through on the Apple side.  Ask yourself… are these legitimate companies? Have I heard of them?  Read the reviews, look at the number of downloads, and go on their websites.

2.) Read the permissions.
If you’re using an Android phone – before you download an app, it will tell you all the data it will be accessing.  Read this. A lot of people just hit next as if they are accepting these terms as a random software update.  If it is accessing all your information such as personal data and your first born, consider that a red flag.

3.) Make sure you install the latest updates.
Those annoying updates that pop up in your screen that say you need the latest version should do a better job explaining themselves.  Hackers can create bugs and these updates may include patches your operating system needs.  Download them!

And as holiday shopping is upon us, make sure you are going to secure sites: look for https (s stands for secure) in your address bar and beware of phishing schemes and emails.

What else can I do to protect myself?
A lot depends on your platform.

Android Users:
If you’re an Android user – bad news for ya – you are way more susceptible to threats.  According to Lookout a mobile security company; three out of ten Android owners are likely to encounter a web-based threat on their device each year and Android apps infected with malware went from 80 apps in January to over 400 apps cumulative in June 2011. This is due in part that Android is an open source.  Sure, apps that are malicious get pulled down, but for some it's too late.

I recommend the Lookout app for Android users.  It is free or for a premium version $30 bucks a year.  It will protect against malware, spyware, will backup your phone, track it if lost and wipe your data.

iPhones (iOS) Users:
Apples operating system runs a little different and is much more secure. Plus, unlike Android there’s an approval process for apps-- and I can tell you from my friends that are app developers it’s not always an easy process to get through.  While, these kind of hurdles arent always great for developers, most of the time they are good for the consumer. In terms of purchasing an iPhone antivirus, there are a couple apps in the marketplace that will scan files attached in emails searching for threats.  But I think we have to be realistic; are you really going to scan every file that comes in manually in the rush of a day? I would rather not give you two subpar apps that I don't feel are worthwhile.

However, here is what I recommend:

If you have an iPhone you should download Find My iPhone.  It is a free app.  It will help you locate, remotely wipe or remotely lock your phone. You should also use a passcode on your phone especially when you are traveling.

Also, as previously noted, make sure you are updating.  Patches are often released and you want to make sure you have the latest version.

Could you be a victim of a mobile attack? 
Yes.  Just remember your cell is a mini computer and if you keep treating it like one -- being smart about what you access and download-- you can continue to keep yourself safe.


  1. Regarding the "fact" that was stated (by the host) during your CBS interview regarding Windows-based machines being more susceptible to viruses, you should have really corrected them on that. There are many hijackings of MacOS based systems, but usually it's something hidden under the Unix shell that allows the attacker to use the system without the user's knowledge (let's not forget about the MacBook that was won by the user who hacked it in mere seconds), and the other probability is that hackers prefer to go after the whales not the tunas. Having worked in the IT industry building and repairing computer systems both PC's & Macs for approximately 13-14 years, I have seen a lot of this with a grand proliferation of malware within the last 3-4 years. Not surprisingly the hosts brushed off the fact that you brought up about the Apple App Store having let that fake A/V through. One thing I think you missed while pushing the Lookout App was that no protection is 100% and that the BEST protection is to use your brain and read things like the EULA that should be included with every app (in addition to looking at what permissions the app requires which you mentioned).

    Also, not for nothing, but you sounded a little condescending to the hosts when you said that you didn't "want to sound too techie" to them, something I've found is that when you talk like that to customers they will turn you off faster than you can think about it, just go to their level and talk there.

  2. Hi PC Tech - Appreciate your input. Something people dont realize about TV segments you have about 45 seconds to get in about an hour of what you want to say! You have to pick and choose what to get in on the fly.



Copyright © 2012 Katie Linendoll