Devising a Safer Environment for your Mobile Device

smartphoneSmartphones and tablets now let us put the power of a computer in a pocket, purse or small bag, meaning it is often at hand and on duty 24×7.  Add to the mix that these mobile devices tend to carry more personal information than your desk/laptop did, many are unprotected, and the instances of mobile malware have risen 185% in less than a year [ 1 ].  The result? You’re at an ever increasing risk when using your mobile device. So, how best to defend yourself?

Start by downloading an anti-malware application (some offering many offering loss/theft protection), like Norton (Android), AVG (Android), Sophos Mobile Security (Android), McAfee (Android, Blackberry, Symbian), Lookout Mobile Security (Android and iPhone) or dozens of iPhone security apps available from the iTunes store. There are also new products like X-Ray for Android, which lets you scan your Android device for vulnerabilities and assess your risk. For more possibilities, you might want to check out the results of a test of Android anti-virus apps by AV-Test to see their top 10 list. [ 2 ]  Lifehacker’s article, The Best (and Worst) Antivirus Apps for Android, summarizes AV-Test’s results and includes an at-a-glance chart.

Speaking of apps and downloading, another tip is to only use apps from a reputable source (like Google or Apple), avoiding free but unofficial versions of popular apps, and to check the permission requested when downloading to see if they make sense for what you’re getting. And get into the habit of backing up your device.

Three different kinds of smartphonesAttevo (a business and IT consulting firm) has compiled a thirteen-point checklist of security habits and usage suggestions [ 3 ] for all smartphone owners, which you should definitely check out. High on the list are a couple rather obvious ones that are still worth following: maintain physical control of your device (4.3% of employee phones are lost or stolen each year) and secure it with a password or passcode [ 4 ].

One final tip: Watch out for phishing, whether it arrives in your InBox or as a text message (SMiShing). These are on the rise and can catch you unaware, especially since it has become second nature to automatically respond to what is usually a short friendly message.

1. US Government Accountability Office (Infosecurity Magazine, 9/24/2012)
2. Test: Malware Protection for Android (AV-Test, March 2012)
3. Smartphone Security Checklist  (Help Net Security, 3/20/2012)
4. The Lost Smartphone Problem (Ponemon Institute / McAfee, October 2011)

See also: Build Up Your Phone’s Defenses Against Hackers (NY Times, 1/26/2012)