Security Threats To Your Mobile Devices To Watch Out For in 2019

May 20, 2019
Security Threats To Your Mobile Devices
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article by Nicky Hoseck author

Can you imagine life without your smartphone? As we’re becoming increasingly dependent on our mobile devices for everything from surfing the web to listening to music; booking an uber to having a full-time virtual personal assistant.

Unfortunately, the more we use our mobile devices, the more vulnerable they become, especially if we use them to access sensitive work-related information. You might have spent the past couple of months worrying about malware, but there are actually much bigger and more dangerous threats out there that are far more likely to compromise the security of your mobile device.

According to one report, the chances of getting a malware infection on your smartphone or tablet is less than your chance of being hit by lightning. That’s not to say that you should now abandon all attempts at cybersecurity, but rather, you should focus on the following five security threats to your mobile devices instead.

Top 5 Security Threats to Your Mobile Devices

#1 Data Leakage

While this sounds like something that might affect a robot with a urinary tract infection, it’s actually more prevalent and more serious than that. For personal users, data leakage isn’t too much of a concern, but for businesses whose employees use their mobile devices to access corporate data, it’s a major problem.

Unlike many cyber threats, data leakage often takes place inadvertently rather than illegitimately and many unauthorized data leaks occur by accident. For example, sending an email with a sensitive attachment to the wrong recipient constitutes a pretty serious data breach. Similarly, if an employee’s mobile device is stolen and hacked, this can mean serious problems for the company which will have to deal with potential damage to its reputation as well as possible legal issues.

Data leakage can also occur as a result of an application failure or an error in the transfer of information. Regardless of how it happens, it has potentially serious consequences for the company and employee alike, which is why many are turning to antivirus software, like McAfee’s Total Protection, to give them enriched security.

Like other leading antivirus software developers, McAfee has responded to the increasing threat and cost of data leakage by improving its endpoint protection, scanning traffic traveling both to and from your mobile device and using sophisticated network crawling techniques to identify and secure sensitive data.

#2 Unsecured Wi-Fi and Network Spoofing

The whole point of a mobile device is that you can use it on the go and that often means connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots and networks. Public Wi-Fi connections are particularly vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks whereby a third party eavesdrops on your communications and can intervene in the process, changing the information that’s being exchanged.

Network spoofing has also increased dramatically over recent months and, at the end of last year, research indicated a substantial increase in spoofing attacks, suggesting up to 30,000 such threats occur every day in the US alone.

For the average user, spoofing sounds a little too hi-tech to be of any real concern but, it’s actually a lot more ham-fisted than many other, more sophisticated, cybercrimes. Despite that, it’s still both effective and damaging. For example, if you often spend your lunch hour working from the Starbucks around the corner, you probably have your mobile device set to auto-connect for that specific Wi-Fi network.

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to you, a nearby hacker has set up a spoof network with a similar name which your smartphone accepts as the original and connects to automatically. The creator of the spoofed network now has access to everything on your device, from your social security number to your online banking login information.

The first and most obvious step to take towards better security is to turn off your automatic Wi-Fi connection. The second step is to make sure all your traffic is encrypted by using a reputable VPN like ExpressVPN. ExpressVPN masks your original IP address, making it much harder for cybercriminals to gain access to your device.

Without a VPN, ExpressVPN notes, your public Wi-Fi experience is “more invasive than a prostate check at Walmart” so it’s probably time to start considering a little more protection. Not only will ExpressVPN give you better protection against spoof networks, but it will also encrypt your sensitive data, give you free and anonymous access to blocked sites and allow you to enjoy unlimited and uninterrupted streaming.

#3 Social engineering

While this sounds like someone meticulously organizing a dinner party with pre-designated seats for each guest, it’s actually got nothing at all to do with being an engineer nor being sociable. Social engineering is the term used, according to Wikipedia, to describe “the art of manipulating people so they give up confidential information” such as your banking information, passwords and … Most people will have heard of phishing and this one of the most prominent forms of social engineering.

Nevertheless, there are some strange statistics out there which mean you tend to be more vulnerable to this kind of malicious manipulation when using a mobile device rather than a static one.  This is because many mobile email clients want to save on space so only display the sender’s name, rather than their full email address. This means mobile users are more likely to believe the email is from someone they trust and follow through with the infected link. Furthermore, because a mobile device is always on and nearly always within arm’s reach, mobile users tend to respond more quickly to phishing attempts, it doesn’t give phishing filters time to kick in.

Phishing is just one type of social engineering, and others include baiting, pretexting, scareware, and spear phishing. All these attacks are designed to get the user to voluntarily hand over sensitive information, either because they believe their mobile device is under attack, or because they’re tempted by the competition or special offer.

Both ExpressVPN and McAfee’s antivirus software offer protection against social engineering, although an antivirus with both anti-spam protection and an in-built password manager is going to be your best bet.

#4 Poor Password Management

You’d be amazed at just how many people still believe using “password” as their password is actually sufficient security and provides protection against possible cyberthreats. It’s a little like believing that by donning a silk dress, you’ll be protected against the snow.

When it comes to passwords, we need to up our game a little, not only in terms of what combination of words, letters, and symbols we use to protect our online account information, but also in terms of how often we change those passwords and reuse the same combination.

Another troubling statistic is that many people use the same passwords for their private accounts as for their work-related logins. To make matters even worse, the average employee shares somewhere in the region of six different passwords with a co-worker during the course of their career.

While you may be able to sweep these statistics under the carpet to a certain extent, the fact is that the majority of big-business hacks have occurred as a result of weak password management. Given that password managers are included in most antivirus suites and many VPNs and are extremely simple and yet effective, not using one is tantamount to shouting your favorite passwords from the top of the Empire State Building.

McAfee’s Internet Security, Total Protection, and LiveSafe packages all include access to the TrueKey identity manager which will encrypt your passwords with an advanced encryption key and warn you if you have any weak or repeated passwords. TrueKey uses multi-factor authentication, including facial recognition, to make sure you, and only you, can gain access to your sensitive login information.

#5 Out-of-Date Devices

The days of things lasting a lifetime are long gone and in the current age of technological dependency and development, every piece of hardware and software seems to become obsolete within a matter of years, if not months. Smartphones aren’t the only mobile devices that need constant updating and, as the Internet of Things continues to grow and make its presence felt in more and more households around the world, so our vulnerability to cybercrimes increases with it.

IoT devices are undeniably useful, helping homeowners improve energy efficiency and cancer patients manage their treatment more effectively. The only trouble is, these devices are just as vulnerable to cybercrimes as any other connected mobile device. If you spread all your Bluetooth, Wi-Fi-friendly and other connected gadgets out on the table, you’d get a clear indication of just how big the target is for nefarious individuals looking to get access to your device and your private data. Indeed, the majority of IT professionals believe that such devices could lead to devastating corporate data breaches within their companies.

Protecting IoT devices isn’t as simple as it sounds and to get any level of security in your home or office, you would need to have some type of cover-all protection on your router. For IoT security, McAfee’s Secure Home Platform is probably the best option as it will protect everything in your home, from robotic toys to smart speakers and touch screen refrigerators. This all-inclusive cybersecurity protection is available on routers from Arris and D-Link.

Of course, it’s not just gadgets and mobile devices that need protection, and software applications can leave back doors wide open for cybercriminals to simply stroll in and take whatever data they want. Ensuring all your applications are up to date is vital for your online security and the combination of application control and vulnerability scanning provided by McAfee enables users to block unwanted apps and stay up to date with the latest security patches.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, as fast as devices evolve and are updated, so cybercriminals are honing and advancing their own set of nefarious skills. When it comes to cybersecurity, you need to select the right tool for the job. If the job is safeguarding your online browsing experience so you can’t be tracked, then ExpressVPN is the perfect solution to the problem. If, however, you want protection against malicious sites and phishing attacks, then McAfee’s internet security solutions are the answer.

If you believe you’re safe enough in cyberspace simply because you don’t have any data worth stealing, think again. Small business owners are particularly vulnerable to cyber threats due to their comparatively high level of digital assets coupled with weaker security than that implemented by larger organizations.

The best approach to cybersecurity is a three-pronged attack that includes a firewall and antivirus protection, coupled with a rescue kit of some description so you don’t lose data as a result of a security breach. The second prong involves encryption which will keep prying eyes out of your bank statements and away from your online activities and communications. The third time on your security fork is password security software which will help you to manage your multiple logins and will alert you to any vulnerable passwords or susceptible authentication processes.

Think you have nothing to lose? Do you really want those photographs of your daughter falling into the wrong hands? Would you really not mind if someone else used your Airbnb account to treat themselves to an $11k holiday? Indeed. Consider this a warning and get your digital ducks in a row before it is too late.