While smartphones can make a significant and positive impact on those who embrace the technology, conversely the technology can wreak havoc on its users if they are complacent, careless or re-active to the ever expanding number of security threats.
Inattention to potential security threats can result in the invasion of privacy, identity theft, inconvenience, the loss of intellectual property and the actual loss of money. The more dependent a smartphone user is on the technology, the more they have at risk.
Attevo, Inc. is a business and information technology consultancy that has participated in the implementation of mobile banking applications within 8 of the 10 largest financial institutions in North America.
While banks and their technology partners like Attevo invest considerable attention and resources to provide highly-secure mobile banking transactions, consumers can unwittingly undermine their bank’s robust security efforts with an indifferent or relaxed attitude about the security necessities of their own smartphones.
Checklist of security habits and usage suggestions for all smartphone owners:
- Always maintain physical control over your smartphone to prevent outright theft, unauthorized usage or the installation of malware (apps with malicious code) by seemingly mild-mannered co-workers or by ruthless digital predators; treat a smartphone like a wallet, never leave it unattended in public spaces.
- Enable the smartphone’s password/passcode protection setting; a recent study reveals that only 38% of smartphone users enable this basic security feature.
- Install operating system updates whenever they become available to reduce the number of system vulnerabilities; a 2011 report indicated that 90% of Android users were running outdated operating system versions with serious security vulnerabilities.
- Install an anti-malware protection app (if available for the device) to thwart infection from malicious apps and websites; all major platforms have been hacked and are susceptible.
- When using the smartphone’s web browser, avoid suspicious/questionable websites that can be the source of malicious code.
- Be selective when buying or installing apps; wait for app reviews, download only from trusted sources (known app stores) and be cautious/suspicious of free apps, because they are free for a reason (the reason could be access to your data).
- Understand and control each downloaded apps “access” to smartphone data and personal information; game apps do not need access to phonebook contacts, photos, e-mails, location, browsing history, texting history and other phone features (avoid allowing automatic app updates).
- Do not save passwords, PINs or other account information as Contacts or in Notes.
- Avoid using open Wi-Fis, especially for shopping and banking activities; Wi-Fi sniffing is a common occurrence that can have significant consequences like lost credit card numbers.
- Avoid opening suspicious e-mail or SMS text messages, especially from unknown sources. Unwary readers may be unwillingly tricked into phishing by entering sensitive information from online prompts.
- Turn the Bluetooth access feature off when not needed and avoid Bluetooth use in busy public areas.
- Utilize a PIN to access voice-mail and avoid using the carrier’s default PIN setting.
- Insure that smartphone e-mail account access is through either a SSL or HTTPS connection so that transmitted data is encrypted.