4 threats to your mobile security and what to do about them

October 6, 2020 12:00:00 AM

4 threats to your mobile security and what to do about them

Most of us have at least one smartphone and possibly a tablet and their importance in our daily lives has increased significantly over the years. Our smartphones have become a way of life. Just think about what we use them for. Shopping, online banking, taking photos, sending emails, listening to music, messaging, sharing stuff on social media, the list goes on.

Because we store so much personal and sensitive data on our devices, mobile security is just as important as protecting our desktop PCs and laptop computers. Despite this, not many of us use security apps on their mobile devices like they do for their computers. Here are a few reasons why the security of your mobile devices should be taken seriously.

1. Malware for mobile devices is a thing

Malware targeted specifically against mobile devices does exist, especially against Android operating systems. Web criminals are where the users and the money are. And a growing number of people access internet services through their mobile devices. While traditional computer viruses aren’t a threat to mobile devices, other kinds of malware are.

For example, Triada malware which only targets mobile devices, causes harm by using something called root privileges which allows it to control all installed apps. It is mainly used to show ads to the user, but it can also send SMS messages to premium phone numbers causing financial loss. Triada is also known to have downloaded harmful applications to infected devices. It has been called the most sophisticated mobile malware so far.

Some apps exist only to get your data while offering little benefit, blurring the line between malware and application. Accepting their terms and conditions allows them to get your data with your permission. While it is unlikely that you will download malware through App Store or Google Play Store, every now and then malicious apps do get through to these official app stores.

2. Unsecure Wi-Fi connections

Connecting to a public Wi-Fi can pose a major risk. Hackers can establish unsecured access points in places where people often want to use Wi-Fi, such as coffee shops and airports etc. These networks might appear just fine – except that they are unsecure. They can be used to access your traffic and device, and to phish for your login credentials. This act is called network spoofing.

3. Phishing attempts are more effective on mobile devices

Phishing emails are usually more effective on mobile devices due to their smaller screens. Most email apps typically show only the name of the sender. The email address of the sender becomes visible only when tapped on. With a quick glance, scam emails can pass as legitimate ones more easily than on desktop. Mobile devices are also more often used in a hurry, and on the go. It’s easier to fall for phishing emails and open harmful links or attachments when you’re not paying enough attention.

Phishers can also try to target you by SMS messages, phone calls and instant messaging apps, so do not open random links if you do not trust them. No reputable company or authority will ask for important personal information through email or SMS. If you are ever unsure, try to contact the sender to verify their intentions. It is better to be safe than sorry.

4. Apps can leak your data

We all have tons of apps on our devices. Many of them require permissions, that when we accept them can have access to, for example, your microphone, camera, files and contacts. We also fill in our personal information, login credentials and credit card information into these apps.

All these permissions can lead to data leakage. The services can also be breached, which means your data can be compromised. Your data can be sold by the service providers for marketing purposes. It can also be used to steal your identity, if the data ends up in malicious hands.

It’s always good to think, is it really necessary to grant the app the required permissions. Some apps with access to the device’s microphone can listen to you through your device even when you are not using the app. Some apps on Android can ask for access to your SMS messages and call logs. Many apps may have access to your camera. Do you trust the apps enough to grant them these permissions?

It’s also good to remember that while many legitimate apps or some of their features won’t always work the right way without some given permissions, even they can use your data in ways you might not want them to. And they usually do it with your permission.

If the location is switched on all the time, the apps with access to it can transmit data about you. Similarly, if you keep your Bluetooth on all the time, your device can be attacked through it.

Steps to improve your mobile security

As with any computer, keeping your operating system up to date is very important. Not only do updates improve the performance, but they also make your devices more secure. Same goes with app updates.

While anti-virus software might not sound as necessary for mobile devices as for your laptop, it is definitely good to have. Malware targeting mobile devices is getting more common. While official app stores are less likely to spread malware, you can get infections from other sources.

Some Internet security products, such as TalkTalk’s SuperSafe Boost, warn you about possible privacy issues with app permissions. This is a good way to monitor what permissions you have granted to apps and based on that information you can decide what apps to keep and which ones to delete. SuperSafe Boost also comes with a safe browser for your mobile device, which gives an extra layer of protection by filtering harmful sites and links.

Another way to counter data leakage is to use strong passwords, and not reuse them on other profiles. If your login credentials get compromised, the damage will be limited. If you reused a password on multiple profiles, they might all be compromised. A password manager like the one included with SuperSafe Boost, is a really easy way to safely store multiple passwords and improve your security.

To help protect yourself against external attacks and threats, TalkTalk customers can get SuperSafe Boost internet security by logging in to My Account. SuperSafe Boost includes Online Defence internet security which protects up to 10 of the family’s mobiles, tablets and laptops from internet nasties, plus a really helpful Password Manager to make logging in to your online accounts safe and easy – so get yourself protected today!