Brits are today being reminded to be extra vigilant online on National Safer Internet Day, an annual event highlighting the risks of hacking and cybercrime to web users.
Most of us do take web security seriously. Annual revenue for security software has reached a high of over £17 billion globally for Windows systems, and around 75% of all PC’s are protected with antivirus software. But PCs are no longer the biggest arena for cybercriminals. As more of us access the internet via mobiles, user naivety and weaknesses in mobile security are being increasingly exploited.
User confidence in smartphone security is low
Smartphone users are finding their data targeted more and more, with a huge 66% of users admitting to suffering some form of data-related harm, and only 27% of users feel in control of their personal data. Users are also increasingly wary about downloading apps, and two-thirds have admitted to abandoning the purchase of an app due to privacy concerns.
With these statistics in mind, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the levels of smartphone security are higher than desktop security. However, 24% of UK users have admitted they’re unsure if they even have smartphone security installed on their phone, while 26% admitted to not having any security system installed on their phones, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Mobile security weaknesses leave sensitive data vulnerable to hacks
With the increasing use of smartphones in the workplace and reliance on things like the cloud and public wifi, hackers are presented with more chances to access sensitive data than ever before. Vulnerabilities within cloud storage services in particular have fallen foul to high profile security breaches. The infamous “Fappening” of 2014 saw a huge number of A-listers have nude photos exposed online, all of which had been stored in the cloud.
A new report by Telemedia Online has highlighted the need for an updated mobile security strategy, especially to fully enjoy the benefits of the 5G future. The research recommends cross-layered processes, allowing for end-to-end security, which is especially useful for critical services, such as transport and logistics, health and social care, and rural connectivity solutions.
Since 2G first launched, mobile networks have been controlled by a single network operator. The launch of 5G will see networks opening up, allowing them to offer “slices” of the network to customers. In addition to this, data will be offloaded and processed without going through the secure network core, which raises new security challenges.
How to improve smartphone security
Keeping smartphones as secure as possible requires constant scanning of new downloads, updated apps, and ensuring that all sensitive information is kept safe, which can be easily completed if you know what to look for. Here are our top tips:
Invest in a mobile security app
The easiest way to improve mobile security is to simply have an app do it for you. Most phones will come with some form of a free or trial app to protect your data, but these often only offer the bare minimum. There are apps available to purchase that alert you to any suspicious files that may be attacking your phone. Wandera, for example, is a corporate solution that works to boost smartphone security by continuously scanning mobile phones, alerting business owners to any threats and containing them before they become an issue.
If your phone is already infected with malware, you should invest in antivirus software. Apps like Kaspersky are able to scan and rescue infected smartphones while protecting your personal files, and restoring your phone. However, like with most things, it’s better to be preventative, rather than simply finding a cure.
Only download apps and files from official sources
If you are using your phone to download new apps and files, make sure you only follow links from official sources, whether this is from the App Store, Google Play, or the company’s website. If you are downloading from an app store, read through the ratings and reviews to make sure you’re purchasing and downloading the app you want, rather than risk installing a virus masquerading as an app to your phone. You should also check the developer information on the download page to make sure you’re using the right link.
Be wary of text messages
Phishing continues to be a trusted cybercriminal method of obtaining private data. The latest evolution of this scam is “smishing”, an emerging trend of phishing via text message. This allows hackers to pose as a real business using shortcodes to try and gain money from the recipient. Shortcodes allow legitimate charities to collect money by triggering a transaction via the shortcode, which is then automatically added to your phone bill. Scammers can use shortcodes and pose as a legitimate charity in order to get “donations” which will eventually lead to costly additions on your phone bill.
Some hackers may even include links to mobile malware in text messages in order to infect your smartphone. Clicking the link, that appears to be from a reputable business, leads to the virus installing itself onto your mobile phone, compromising your security and stealing your personal data. You should be extremely wary of text messages from unknown numbers, and avoid clicking links unless you’re 100% sure of the sender.
Check the browser address bar for secure connections
When browsing online, ensure you’re using a secure (and official) website by looking for the lock symbol in your address bar. This indicates that personal data—such as card information and addresses—are encrypted and kept hidden. Both iPhone and Android phones come preloaded with a default browser. However, there are alternative browsers available, which can flag up any potential threatening websites, providing a defence against any mobile security threats.