The capabilities and possibilities of new mobile devices have seen the adoption of smartphones grow remarkably, taking up 68 percent of the US mobile phone market in April 2015, up from 58 percent in early 2014. According to Pew Research, smartphone ownership has grown by 29 percent since Spring of 2011 when only 35 percent of Americans owned a smartphone.
It is clear that smartphones represent the future of mobile telephony, and will surely replace conventional mobile phones sooner or later. For many people, a smartphone is more than just a tool to communicate. It can be used for internet banking, social networking, capturing and storing photos, and basically organizing your whole life. Unfortunately, the wide range of mobile device functions also increases their security issues, making them attractive to criminals.
Smartphones can be infected with malicious software and sensitive or personal and confidential information stolen. Phishing attacks are just as effective with smartphones as with any other web based device.
Risk amplification and divergence
Today, it has become unthinkable to use a PC without installing security software first. With mobile phones, this sense of responsibility is yet to reach the majority of users, despite the fact that they store important personal information, personal images, and even business data on their smartphones.
Generally, mobile devices augment existing security concerns while introducing a new set of risks. When compared to PC-based operating systems, mobile OS are less mature. Developers have not dedicated enough time to making them more secure, which means that hackers require less time and effort to poke holes in them.
Hackers also require less effort to access mobile applications, including antivirus software, despite the fact that there is malware specifically designed for mobile device platforms. In fact, panelists in a recent security conference observed that the market for enterprise-grade antivirus solutions for smartphones is essentially non-existent.
The existing mobile antivirus software is generally regarded as less robust than for PCs. Unlike most personal computers, mobile devices usually don’t have password protection enabled by default. Taking these factors into consideration, mobile security becomes seriously problematic.
Saved passwords and other personal data:
When a smartphone is stolen or lost, unauthorized users typically don’t have much difficulty accessing the resources stored on the device, or even those accessed through it, especially in situations where the users allow their device to store passwords to online services.
There are a number of security tools that allows users to erase all stored data from a lost or stolen laptop remotely. Fortunately, these applications are becoming increasingly available on mobile devices, with both free and premium packages.
Smartphones nowadays include cameras that introduce a variety of security concerns, given the number of places and situations in which the ability to capture clandestine photos or video can pose serious security and privacy concerns to individuals and organizations.
Apps with little or no oversight
Even on platforms that require apps to be approved, the marketplace for mobile applications has become another avenue for security risks, and the threat may be much greater for apps that have minimal or no oversight. These apps can allow remote activation of the camera or microphone without the user’s knowledge.
Mobile payment services
Mobile payment services allow users to connect to their bank accounts via their smartphones in order to pay for goods and services, resulting in significant security ramifications.
One way that mobile devices differ from laptops is in the area of location awareness. Many mobile devices use GPS and other methods to pinpoint their locations at any time – a unique feature that is usually not found on laptops.
Some mobile device apps also make it possible to share location information with other people, like Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook, where you check-in to let your friends know where you are at any particular time. Such information can also get in the hands of unscrupulous characters, like burglars, stalkers, and spammers.
How to boost mobile security
The opportunities and convenience offered by mobile devices are incredible. However, many consumers fail to acknowledge the risks that come with carrying a full-featured, internet-connected computer in their pockets.
Mobile devices can, to a considerable extent, securely store private data and perform sensitive transactions, but only if properly configured and used the right way. So, users should understand the trade-offs between functionality and security to make informed decisions about what they do with their mobile devices, and the risks that their activities can incur. This requires user education to increase awareness of security threats for mobile devices, and encourage a change of user habits.