Nearly everyone has a mobile phone and we all go about buying them in the same lackadaisical fashion.
We stroll into a mobile retail location or mall kiosk, grab the phone that looks the best or is the brand we like, and click around on the features for a few minutes. From there, we fork over the cash for the phone and hang around for 15 minutes while the phone is programmed. If we’re smart, we activate a password on the device and off we go.
But shouldn’t we think more about protecting this mini-computer that literally contains our entire life in contacts, pictures, words and random thoughts? Even detailed personal financial data? Studies show only about 30% of us even bother to lock our phones.
Think about how crazy that is, since these days our smartphones are synced with our laptops or desktops, which gives direct access to our personal and business contacts, calendars, data and passwords all irresistible to hackers.
Mobile Antivirus Solutions
Anti-virus companies are notorious for publishing ominous-sounding reports attempting to scare mobile phone owners into purchasing their products. Many of these concerns are blown way out of proportion, but hackers are homing in on the mobile marketplace, so it’s time to take notice to protect your mobile assets.
“If you follow simple precautions such as not downloading things from suspicious sites, and not clicking on suspicious links in emails you weren’t expecting, then you’re pretty safe,” says Marc Rogers, the principal security analyst at Lookout, a highly respected technology security firm. “Google has an effective app vetting process in place.”
And for iPhone owners, the news is better: Apple’s app approval process is even more stringent and detailed, designed to keep customers and their information safe. But I’m talking right here and right now; the mobile security environment is swiftly changing and today’s safety measures may not be so safe tomorrow.
Hackers on the Horizon
Unfortunately, there has been an increase in targeted malware that skirt the security precautions Google, Apple, BlackBerry and other platform providers have in place to protect mobile users. This malware includes malicious websites, third-party app stores offering free versions of popular paid apps, and phishing emails containing bogus links. Click on any of these and your smartphone could well have been instantly hacked.
Here’s what you need to do: if you’re walking around with an iPhone in your pocket, check the phone’s built-in security features. Apple’s mobile security features are better than anything that currently can be found or purchased in an app store.
If you’re an Android user, you can keep your phone secure using one of the free Android security apps that are out there. Consider offerings from Lookout, AVG or Avast, all companies with stellar reputations in mobile security. Lookout Mobile Security has proven to be a favorite among Android antivirus offerings since its free app will scan files you’ve downloaded and apps you’ve installed to check for malware and viruses.
Find My Phone!
One of the biggest mobile security risks is losing your smart- phone. If that’s happened to you, you know the panic that sets in when you realize all that is lost with the device. The thought of all your data your entire life floating out there in the hands of another person is truly frightening.
So consider this as motivation to secure your phone: according to the New York Times, half of all robberies in San Francisco and 42% of all robberies in Washington, D.C., are related to smartphone theft.
Further, there’s nothing the police can do for you besides list your device as stolen in the national database (even though the reality is most phones end up overseas on the black market, well out of reach of the U.S. government tracking efforts).
Apple provides some assistance in locating lost or stolen phones with its free software called Find My iPhone, which can find a missing iPhone or remotely erase its data. But the service does not work once the phone is turned off or disconnected from the Internet.
To locate an iPhone, an Apple customer can log into iCloud.com with a web browser and see a map of its approximate location; the user can then hit a button to erase the phone’s information.
With Lookout’s mobile solution, if you lose your Android device, you can head to its website and attempt to track it down. First, the app will sound an alarm to help you pinpoint its location (in case you misplaced it or to shock the heck out of your phone thief). Plus, if someone tries (and fails) to get past the password lock on your device, the app will snap a photo of the perpetrator and send you an email with their image and location.
The Lookout website will also attempt to find your device’s last known location, sending out an email alert called “signal flare” when your battery becomes critically low, allowing you a better chance of tracking it down.
Lookout’s premium offering will only set you back $3 a month, and it includes the ability to lock your phone and wipe its data remotely, or even transfer data like photos, contacts, and call history to a new device.
You’ll also gain access to Privacy Advisor, which serves up a concise list of the information that installed apps can access. Downloading the app gets you a free two-week trial of the premium offerings, which should leave you with plenty of time to decide if the upgrade is right for you.
Heather Blessington, CEO of Duo Web Solutions, is an accomplished blogger receiving press from CNN, USA Today, BBC and Forbes. Her company specializes in creating and managing blogs for powersports dealers. Contact Heather at [email protected].