Volume 8, Issue 2
How Do I Protect the Information on My Smartphone? - pdf
From the Desk of Thomas D. Smith, Director
If you have a smartphone, you carry a fully functional computer in your pocket or purse. That's a tremendous amount of information at your fingertips! Therefore, it is paramount that you safeguard the device.
Common Risks for Smartphones:
- Loss of device and information theft. Smartphones are small and can easily be lost or stolen. Unauthorized users could access your accounts, address lists, photos, and more to scam, harm or embarrass you or your friends. They may leverage stored passwords to access your bank and credit card accounts, steal your money or make credit card charges, gain access to sensitive material, and more.
- Social Engineering. A common mobile threat is social engineering. Whether via text message, image, or application download, an incoming communication may be an attempt to gain access to your information. A current example in use consists of a text message that comes from an unknown number, telling you that if you click on the link provided, you'll have access to thousands of free ringtones. If this sounds too good to be true, that's because it is. The link is in fact a malicious link. Clicking on it will compromise the security of your smartphone.
- TMI (Too Much Information). Guidelines for protecting privacy, safety, and reputation when sharing via computers also apply when sharing via smartphones. Mobile devices enable instantaneous capturing, posting, and distribution of images, videos, and information. They may also broadcast location information.
- Public Wi-Fi. Smartphones are susceptible to malware and hacking when using unsecured public networks.
- Bluetooth and Near Field Communications (NFC). Bluetooth is a wireless network technology that uses short-wave radio transmissions to transmit voice and data. NFC allows smartphones to communicate with each other by simply touching or being in proximity to another smartphone with NFC capabilities or a NFC device. Risks with using NFC and Bluetooth include eavesdropping, through which the cyber criminal can intercept data transmissions, such as credit card numbers. NFC also has the risk of transferring viruses or other malware from one NFC-enabled device to another.
Simple Steps to Protect Your Smartphone:
- Update the operating system. Smartphones need to be updated. Updates often provide you with enhanced functionality and enriched features, as well as fixes to critical security vulnerabilities. Your smartphone manufacturer should notify you whenever an update is available.
- Use of security software is a must. As the smartphone market is increasing, so too is the amount of malware designed to attack smartphones. A key protection is to use mobile security software and keep it up-to-date. Many of these programs can also locate a missing or stolen phone, will back up your data, and even remotely wipe all data from the phone if it is reported stolen.
- Password-protect your device. Enable strong password protection on your device and include a timeout requiring authentication after a period of inactivity. Secure the smartphone with a unique password -not the default one that came with the device. Do not share your password with others.
- Think before you click, download, forward, or open. Before responding, registering, downloading or providing information, get the facts. No matter how tempting the text, image, or application is, if the download isn't from a legitimate application store or the site of a trusted company, don't engage.
- Be cautious with public Wi-Fi. Many smartphone users use free Wi-Fi hotspots to access data (and keep their phone plan costs down). There are numerous threats associated with Wi-Fi hotspots. To be safe, avoid logging into accounts, especially financial accounts, when using public wireless networks.
- Disable Bluetooth and Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities when not in use. Capabilities such as Bluetooth and NFC can provide ease and convenience in using your smartphone. They can also provide an easy way for a nearby, unauthorized user to gain access to your data. Turn these features off when they are not required.
- Enable encryption. Enabling encryption on your smartphone is one of the best ways to safeguard information stored on the device, thwarting unauthorized access.
- Securely dispose of your device. With the constant changes and upgrades in the smartphone market, many are upgrading their devices on a regular basis. It is important that you wipe the information from your smartphone before disposal. Additionally, make sure any SD cards are removed and erased. If you are not redeploying the SIM card to your new device, then make sure your personal information stored on the SIM card is erased or destroyed.
For additional information about securing mobile devices, please utilize the following resources:
- NYS Office of Cyber Security's Resources and Newsletters:
- About.com 14 Ways to Find a Stolen or Lost iPhone:
- FTC - How to Dispose Your Mobile Device Securely:
- University of Northern Colorado:
- US-CERT - Cyber Threats to Mobile Phones:
- Sophos - Android Tool:
- Microsoft - Secure Your Smartphone:
For more monthly cyber security newsletter tips, visit:
The information provided in the Monthly Security Tips Newsletters is intended to increase the security awareness of an organization's end users and to help them behave in a more secure manner within their work environment. While some of the tips may relate to maintaining a home computer, the increased awareness is intended to help improve the organization's overall cyber security posture. This is especially critical if employees access their work network from their home computer. Organizations have permission and are encouraged to brand and redistribute this newsletter in whole for educational, non-commercial purposes.
Acting Chief Information Security Officer
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