Mobile Security: Staying Smart About Your Phone

Hand holding smartphone

Mobile phones have become an indispensable part of modern life for most, with smartphones comprising close to 50% of recent phone purchases (see related article 2011: Security Trends for the New Year, The Rise of the Mobile Device). The electronic “Swiss Army knife” offers an amazing and complex blend of functions, replacing enough gadgets to fill up your backpack.  It also is a prime target for thieves, whether from physical snatches, SMiShing, or malware threats.

This article is an update of the January 2009 Secure IT! article Focus on Mobile Security: Smart Phones, (please consult for other great resources not repeated here), offering new tips on SMiShing and security apps.

SMS Phishin’ For . . .

Text messaging is a great way to stay connected, but just like email, can be dangerous. SMiShing, for example, is a variation on phishing with the bogus messages arrive via SMS (Short Message Service), i.e., text. (See also Consumer Reports’ recent article.)

If you do receive an unknown or suspicious message, sites like SMS Watch Dog or can be a good resource to search for any reports on the SMS code.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has complied a list of tips to protect yourself from cyber scams, including the following for owners of smartphones.

  1. Text message thread with bogus offer for data planDon’t respond to text messages or automated voice messages from unknown or blocked numbers on your mobile phone.
  2. Treat your mobile phone like you would your computer. Don’t download anything unless you trust the source.
  3. Don’t respond to unsolicited e-mails (or texts or phone calls) requesting personal info, nor click on links or attachments in unsolicited e-mails. If you want to go to a merchant’s website, type their URL directly into your browser’s address bar.

Secure & App-Happy

Don Reisinger, freelance technology columnist,  offered his top tips in the July 2010 article Android, iPhone Security: 10 Ways to Avoid Personal Data Theft:

  1. Keep it reputable
  2. Don’t trust anything
  3. Keep abreast of new developments
  4. Secure data with apps
  5. Get it to the server
  6. Share nothing and like it
  7. Remember resets
  8. Consider Android’s permissions
  9. Backup is extremely important
  10. Stick with known apps

The big take-away would be: use reputable apps in general and security ones to protect your device. A good starting place is TopTenREVIEWS’s 2011 Mobile Security Software Review Product Comparisons.  It includes security products from Norton, Trend Micro, SMobile, Kaspersky and more, which can be used on Windows Mobile, Symbian OS, Android and Blackberry phones. Most feature antivirus, firewall and SMS antispam abilities. Some even allow you to do remote blocks and wipes as well as locate the device using its GPS function.


Apple’s iPhones also allow locate, lock and remote wipes (depending on the model) as well offer data protecting encryption. Other security-related apps can be downloaded from the iTunes AppStore. Check out Jeff Goldman’s iPhone Security Apps Buying Guide for reviews of his top picks.


As with most safety measures in life, basic common sense is most important and lessons learned growing up still apply: Don’t take things from strangers!  Do you know where that’s been?  Look both ways when crossing the street (or in this case, the information superhighway).



About Cyber Scams
IC3 Tips to Protect Yourself From Cyber Scams
| Sprint Consumer Alert: Fraud/Scam Alerts & Customer

All about SMiShing
| T Mobile Privacy & Security Resource, SMiShing | Sprint Consumer Alert: Protect Yourself From Wireless Spam

SMS Code Lookups
SMS Watch Dog

Federal Trade Commission
Overview of Report on Mobile Commerce Marketplace | FTC Report Mapping the Mobile Marketplace

Security Apps & Mobile Phones
CNET’s antivirus software download page
Bloomberg Business Week report: Google Android More Vulnerable Than IPhone, Antivirus Maker Says (Jan 11, 2011)
TopTenREVIEWS: Mobile Security Software Review
iPhones: Locate, lock and remote wipe | iTunes AppStore |
Data protecting encryption | iPhone Security Apps Buying Guide (Jeff Goldman)

Related Articles
Ignoring mobile hype? Don’t overlook growing mobile device threats (Eric B Parizo, Search, Jan 27, 2011)
Security to Ward Off Crime on Phones (Riva Richmond, New York Times, Feb 23, 2011)

January 2009 Secure IT! article
Focus on Mobile Security: Smart Phone