No matter what we do, we are always apprehensive about smartphone security. We have a false sense of confidence that all personal data on our smartphone is safe, and that our entire phone is immune to external attacks.
It is still a mystery how this false sense of confidence was induced into our society, but most of us are unaware that a record number of thefts have happened through the mobile platform this year alone.
So, this begs the question, why are we so concerned about our desktop or laptop devices and its security, but aren’t properly worried about a smartphone device that we carry it within our person at all times? Maybe, this has to do with a lot of marketing in the early days, when desktop and laptop devices were popular.
The popularity of smartphones boomed at such a rate that it became impossible for mobile anti-malware and anti-spyware products to keep up.
The Primary Reason For Smartphone Data Theft
The primary reason why smartphones are being extensively targeted by hackers is due to general negligence and a lack of understanding among the general public about how smartphone hacking works. When we think about it, it is also an easier job for hackers.
Traditionally, all desktop and laptop devices are properly secured using state-of-the-art security products that make life harder for hackers. But the lack of any security measures for smartphones make it easy for hackers to concentrate their efforts on users who use their smartphones for all their daily needs.
We are more than willing to share all personal and financial data through our smartphone for online banking transactions, online shopping, browsing through emails, or just to surf online. We never give a second thought about how this data is being transmitted over a public domain.
How Your Smartphone Can Be Hacked To Retrieve Personal Data
1. Public Wi-Fi Hotspot
Let’s face it; all smartphone users have used a public Wi-Fi hotspot at some point of time. Most of us still use them, especially if it comes free of cost. Checking emails and browsing the web is just too easy and convenient while using public Wi-Fi.
However, being free of cost and accessible to a public domain, hackers find it easy to phish information out of unsuspecting users by intercepting their online smartphone data transfers.
Hackers have specifically built malware and spyware that is capable of intercepting and monitoring all user activity across the public Wi-Fi hotspot, and are even capable of recording every keystroke.
This makes it easy for them to retrieve usernames and passwords for emails and online bank accounts, and these hackers can even access records and files stored on your smartphone memory.
2. Mobile Apps
Mobile apps are cool, and are our companion most of the time. Being accessible anywhere and anytime, mobile apps are a must for smartphones with advanced mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS. But it is difficult to trust the source and publisher of most mobile apps available for download.
True, the App store and Google Play for Android do host apps from trusted providers, but it is always difficult to imagine that any developer won’t go rogue. Also, mobile apps from other publishers are available for download from different avenues, and these usually contain malware that sticks onto the smartphone OS and can be invisible to the user.
This malware will utilize the phone’s resources to retrieve personal information and send it over the phone’s network to the developers. Some mobile apps actively track user information and whereabouts using phone records and GPS tracking interface.
3. Malicious Links & Websites
Time and again, we are being inundated with advices and tips on saving our personal information by avoiding clicking through any links or images that we receive via emails. This is highly imperative to prevent malware and spyware from installing itself into the operating system. The same rule applies to emails or websites opened through a smartphone interface. There is every bit of a chance for data theft by malicious agents that lurk in the background.
5 Signs You Are A Victim Of Smartphone Hacking
1. Unusual Battery Usage
Are you experiencing frequent ‘Low Battery’ warnings? Apart from any battery related issues, ‘Low Battery’ warnings usually arise from high phone usage. If you feel that you are not using your smartphone excessively, but are still experiencing these warning messages, chances are high that resources centric applications are running in the background. These apps usually run without your permission, and may be used to retrieve your personal data.
2. Unusual Data Charges
Once again, if you are seeing more data charges and more data usage than ever before, without any significant change to your online browsing behavior, chances are high that your smartphone contains some kind of malware that regularly uses your network to transmit data.
3. Low Disk Space Warning
Low disk space warning messages are similar to virus attacks on desktop or laptop devices. Smartphone related malware will use up system resources, and it is usual for these programs to take up valuable phone resources such as space on the storage card and the RAM. Just make sure that you are not running large applications in the background or if your phone memory is not full due to your existing files and folders.
4. Slow Speed – Both Phone & Internet
If you are experiencing slow speeds while using your smartphone or while using the internet, it generally means that your phone is using up the available bandwidth. Chances are high that your phone contains programs that are using up your network without your consent. This problem is largely seen in conjunction with unusual data charges.
5. Unwanted Programs
Sometimes, unwanted programs usually prompt the user to carry out certain actions. If you feel that you have not installed any such programs, these are probably good indicators that your phone has been hacked or any of the malicious links that you have clicked has installed a program into your phone without your permission.
How To Prevent Smartphone Hacking & Related Attacks
Use Public Networks Wisely
You can use public networks and free Wi-Fi hotspots, but use them diligently. Always assume that public networks are unsafe, and only use these networks for simple online browsing. Avoid entering any passwords or other sensitive information into your computer while using a public network. If you are indeed using a public network, always make use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service.
Don’t Click On Email Links indiscriminately
It doesn’t matter if your best friend sent you a link, don’t click on it, unless you are completely satisfied that the email is genuine. The same rule applies for corporate and professional emails as well. Sometimes, email spoofs are used to send emails and links on your acquaintance’s behalf.
It would be better if you could call up to enquire if the email is indeed genuine, and if the link included is relevant to you. Also, don’t click on links that have been shortened, or if they are not completely legible. Don’t let intriguing looking links prompt you to click through, as these are minefields for dangerous malware and spyware.
Know Your Apps
It is great that you can download apps, but just get to know them before you download and install them on your smartphone. Read the terms of usage; understand the sort of permissions required, and what all information will be tracked by the app before installing it. It is always your best bet to choose a trusted app developer that has received positive reviews from other users, and try to keep the number of mobile apps on your smartphone to a minimum.
Keep Your Smartphone Safe & Secure
This is the most important aspect, but one that is generally ignored by most smartphone users. We tend to leave smartphones at public places without much due thought or care. Sometimes, we might even lose our smartphone entirely, or sometimes, it gets stolen.
Losing a smartphone also means loss of data and private information to those who have stolen your phone, or to those who find your phone. Keep your phone secure, or in the event you lose your phone, make use of inbuilt smartphone features such as ‘Find My iPhone’ or ‘Android Lost’ that will help you to remotely wipe out your entire phone memory to prevent data theft.
Install Anti-malware & Anti-Spyware Products
If you use your smartphone extensively, it would be wise to invest in any good anti-malware product and enjoy complete peace of mind. Most mobile security programs will help you keep your data safe, and can also help you to avoid any accidental loss of data. These programs will only help you secure data within your phone, but cannot secure any online transformation of information.
Subscribe To A Mobile VPN Service
A mobile VPN service generally allows a smartphone user to encrypt all the flow of data and prevent unauthorized access to your phone. VPN is only helpful in encrypting data that is transmitted online. VPN cannot be used to secure data on a smartphone, for which good anti-virus software is required.
A VPN should be used along with a good antivirus program. Don’t be self-assured by the security that is offered by the ISP, the public Wi-Fi hotspot or the website (applicable to online banking and financial websites), nothing can beat the security and privacy offered by a dedicated VPN service.