When you hear the word “cyberattack,” you probably think of large scale attacks on major businesses or government agencies. Perhaps you have heard pundits on news talk shows discussing the possibility of a terror attack using cyberwarfare to knock vital infrastructures offline and create chaos and destruction. What you probably do not think of is the fact you could become a victim of a cyberattack yourself.
Most individuals do not believe they have anything of interest to a sophisticated cybercriminal. However, your bank accounts, your identity, even your contact list is valuable information to someone who wants to steal it and sell it for profit. Consider this: Your information, including your name, address, phone number and date of birth is worth a few hundred dollars on the black market. If a criminal can access your Social Security number, the price tag jumps to over $1,000.
Cyberwarfare is not a new concept; as long as humans have used computers to develop and share information criminals have sought ways to use them to gain power, whether by stealing valuable information or causing problems for other people. The latest frontier in this war is not the super computers used to send millions of bytes of information every second, but rather the small computers we all hold in our hands.
Mobile Devices More Vulnerable Than Ever Before
These days, you are hard-pressed to find anyone who does not carry some type of mobile device. In fact, many of us use multiple devices, including smartphones and tablets, for work, school and entertainment. We use these devices to do everything from staying in touch with loved onesto playing games to managing our finances, accessing important work documents and databases, even making purchases on them.
Mobile devices have replaced traditional computers in many ways and this makes them valuable targets to criminals who want access to your information. In fact, the number of instances of malware specifically designed for mobile devices more than doubled between 2012 and 2013 according to one cybersecurity firm, with nearly 200,000 different mobile malware programs detected by the end of 2013. Android devices are a top target for cybercriminals, who take advantage of the platforms open-source software to develop harmful programs, but even devices on the iOS platform are vulnerable to attack.
Experts say a majority of mobile malware is designed to steal consumers’ money by accessing stored bank or credit card information, launching phishing schemes or installing premium services that operate without the user’s knowledge. However, some programs are even more sinister and are designed to steal your contacts to spread more malware, gain access to your employer’s corporate network or even record all of your activity on your phone, including your conversations.
The rise in cyberattacks on mobile devices means users need to be more vigilant than ever before to protect their devices. Follow some of these tactics to keep your mobile device secure:
Install Anti-Malware Protection
Some “experts” have claimed mobile devices do not need anti-malware protection to protect against viruses, spyware and adware. However, the growing number of infected devices indicates you should install some form of anti-malware software on your devices. Such programs will block malware from illegitimate applications as well as through malicious email and text messages or social media.
Be “App Aware”
Many users are surprised to find their devices contain malware installed via an application they downloaded. While only installing apps from official sources reduces the likelihood of an infection, there are instances of malicious apps in stores like Google Play. Learn to identify the signs of a harmful app and only download from trusted sources.
UpdateYour Operating System
Much like your computer, your mobile device operating system needs to be updated periodically to ensure it has the latest patches and big fixes. Do not ignore prompts to update your system and regularly check to make sure you have the latest version installed.
Only UseSecure Hotspots
Some cybercriminals create fake mobile hotspots to tempt unsuspecting users into logging on, only to access their device and data illegally. When using mobile hotspots, use only secure spots that are the “official” spot of your location.
Use Your Device’s Security Features
Explore your mobile device’s standard security features and use them to protect your data. At the very least, set the device to automatically lock when not in use and use password protection to limit access.
Cyberattacks pose a threat to everyone, and they are increasing at an alarming rate. Your mobile devices offer a great deal of convenience, but it’s important to protect yourself against cybercriminals set on stealing your money and your identity.