Trend Micro
Are You Protecting the Data Packets in Your Pocket?

It's been said that information is the new currency.[1] Carrying a smartphone nowadays is like having a second wallet. Instead of containing money though, your smartphone contains data. This makes it an obvious attack target for hackers and cybercriminals. One careless move and your data can easily fall into the wrong hands. That's why it pays to learn how to protect the data in your smartphone.

What’s in Your Smartphone?

You may not realize how much data is in your mobile device. Sending email, accessing social media, and banking online have become ordinary mobile device tasks. Cybercriminals want your data because they want to make money off it.

Data stored in mobile devices:

  • Contact details
  • Text messages
  • Emails
  • Photos and videos
  • Call logs
  • Calendar history
  • GPS locations
  • App passwords
  • Recorded audio
  • Browsing history

Online accounts accessible via mobile devices:

  • Social networking accounts
  • Bank accounts
  • Gaming accounts
  • App store accounts
  • Mobile payment information
How You Stand to Lose Data

You can lose data if you don't pay attention to how you share and who you share your information with.

How Much Is Too Much?

Some view social networks as extensions of themselves but there is such a thing as oversharing. Personal details like vacation plans shared via social media can inadvertently wind up in the wrong hands. Your physical possessions are put at risk when you let people know you're away from home. Every app that is integrated into social media can get access to your profile.

Oversharing also happens when you freely give out all your contact details. Did you know that this is how scammers and spammers can get to you? This is how 419 or Nigerian scam spam, emails that seek donations to fake causes, end up in your inboxes.

Good App, Bad App

The number of malicious apps has risen over the past year. Malicious apps can account for data leakage incidents. These steal data by spying on your location history, reading your saved text messages, and sniffing out your personal details like user names and passwords. But did you know that legitimate apps can also expose your data? Some legitimate apps seek too many permissions and have access to too many of your social networking accounts.[2]

Wi-(Fi) Not?

When you access open wireless networks through your mobile device, anyone on the same network can see your online activities. Sniffer apps monitor and record unprotected data sent across a network. These can even allow others to access your Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts if you're on the same Wi-Fi network.[3] This means they can hack into your accounts and steal, change, or delete your personal data.

A Golden Key Can Open Any Door

We all know the importance of creating a strong password but we don't always do so. People can easily hack into your accounts if you use weak or easy-to-guess passwords. Using the same password for different accounts like banking and email is even worse.[4] That single password is like a master key for a wealth of information.

Password use shouldn't be limited to online accounts. All smartphones have a security lock function but only few choose to use it. Most opt not to use a password or PIN for convenience's sake.[5] This is risky for anyone who loses his/her phone because hackers can immediately gain control of the sensitive information in it.

Is Your Mobile Data Ripe for the Picking?

More and more cloud storage service providers are cropping up but not all are created with security and data protection in mind. In fact, some cloud services can put your data at risk. System downtime and illegal activity by the company can render your data inaccessible.[6] Megaupload was charged with knowingly distributing illegal copies of copyrighted works through its sites, along with money laundering through a "rewards program." All of the data stored on the sites were taken offline, causing millions of users to lose data.

Are You Protecting Your Data?

Protecting your device should be a priority given the amount of information you store in it. Here's how:

  • Use built-in security features. That way, only you can access the data stored in it. This adds another layer of protection should you lose your smartphone.
  • Create strong passwords. Choose complex passwords. Investing in a password manager is also a good idea.
  • Access only trusted Wi-Fi networks. Do not automatically connect to open Wi-Fi networks.
  • Scrutinize apps. Read reviews and check the developers' pages before downloading and installing apps. Verify permissions an app seeks before granting them.
  • Invest in a security app. It would even be better if the security app can remotely lock a stolen device or wipe out the data in it.
  • Periodically back up data. You can do so on your computer or via a trusted cloud service. Backing up data in the cloud allows you to access your data anywhere, anytime. Some apps even let you access all your data across multiple devices, saving you time.

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1 http://www.trendmicro.com/cloud-content/us/pdfs/security-intelligence/reports/rpt_a-look-back-at-2011_information-is-currency.pdf
2 http://www.trendmicro.com/cloud-content/us/pdfs/business/ebooks/when-android-apps-want-more-than-they-need.pdf
3 http://www.engadget.com/2011/06/02/faceniff-makes-facebook-hacking-a-portable-one-tap-affair-vide/
4 http://gizmodo.com/5861667/the-25-most-popular-passwords-of-2011
5 http://www.confidenttechnologies.com/news_events/survey-shows-smartphone-users-choose-convenience-over-security
6 http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/01/megaupload-shut-down-by-feds-seven-charged-four-arrested.ars