Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Security Concerns on Smartphones

Everyone using a smartphone should be aware of potential security risks.

Smartphones are essentially pocket-size computers, and are just as vulnerable to viruses and other attacks as your laptop or desktop. All of the normal Internet precautions, such as not downloading strange email attachments or clicking links in spam mail, also apply to smartphones. There are other security concerns, however, that are unique to smartphones. Luckily, it only takes a few basic precautions to keep your data secure.

"Jailbreaking" the iPhone

Some users "jailbreak" their iPhone so that they can switbh wireless carriers or download software not available on Apple's official App Store. Apple tightly controls the software that's available on the App Store, and blocks apps that pose a security risk. Jailbreaking your phone, however, opens a major avenue of attack for malicious software. Third-party "malware" apps disguised as innocent games and tools can easily steal your personal and financial information.

Malicious Software

Malware isn't only a danger to jailbroken iPhones. Other phones, like the Blackberry and Android phones, have a much wider array of apps available and don't have the central quality control of the Apple App Store. You should only download apps from sources you trust. Phones running the Android operating system are at particular risk. The open source nature of the platform means that there are a lot of amateurs writing Android apps, and poorly written software can unintentionally open up vulnerabilities in your phone.

Losing Your Phone

Losing your phone is the most obvious security risk, and potentially the most dangerous. Unlike a normal phone, a smartphone may contain personal and business information and have access to your financial data. You should always lock your phone with a password and back up your data. Most phones come with built in backup software. Verizon, for example, includes its "Backup Assistant" software on all their phones. If you're an AT&T subscriber and you lose your phone, AT&T can lock your phone remotely to prevent anyone from using it.

Vulnerable Wireless Networks

The free Wi-Fi available at many coffee shops and other locations is often unencrypted, and should not be used to transmit sensitive data. If you must send banking or personal data, use the cellular network rather than Wi-Fi for the data connection. In general, you should only ever send data like your banking information or Social Security number to sites you absolutely trust, and even then only over an encrypted connection. Encrypted web addresses start with "https" rather than "http."


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