Back to Old News

Cyber criminals are targeting your smartphone

You know the dangers of identity theft and make sure that you shred old bills and receipts before dumping them in the trash, but how do you protect your Smartphone? Since your Blackberry, Android or iPhone device is capable of a whole range of conveniences – browsing the Internet, online purchasing and banking – your Smartphone is actually a pocket-sized holder of all the sensitive information you’ve been trying so hard to keep from prying eyes.

Recent studies have found that modern users aren’t nearly as careful with a phone as they should be, particularly if it’s used for these types of activities. A recent report by CPP found that 54% of second-hand phones contained personal data such as text messages, emails and bank details –a wakeup call for consumers. Loss or theft is a common concern as well, and without sufficient protection, a stranger can easily grab web site logins, passwords and credit card details that can be used to carry out transactions and register for services in your name.

From Blast

You know the dangers of identity theft and make sure that you shred old bills and receipts before dumping them in the trash, but how do you protect your Smartphone? Since your Blackberry, Android or iPhone device is capable of a whole range of conveniences – browsing the Internet, online purchasing and banking – your Smartphone is actually a pocket-sized holder of all the sensitive information you’ve been trying so hard to keep from prying eyes.

Recent studies have found that modern users aren’t nearly as careful with a phone as they should be, particularly if it’s used for these types of activities. A recent report by CPP found that 54% of second-hand phones contained personal data such as text messages, emails and bank details –a wakeup call for consumers. Loss or theft is a common concern as well, and without sufficient protection, a stranger can easily grab web site logins, passwords and credit card details that can be used to carry out transactions and register for services in your name.

So, what can be done about it? Well, first of all it’s important to start looking at a phone in a similar way you would a wallet, purse or keys – in other words, make sure you know where it is at all times. If you are selling or recycling a phone, make sure any and all personal data is deleted before it is passed on, and don’t forget to remove the SIM card and any internal memory.

While it’s always a good idea to be aware of exactly what type of data a phone can store and take steps to minimize the chance of loss, thankfully the security industry is also weighing in with software that’s specifically designed to protect Smartphones. Using a modern mobile security suite, you can remotely lock, wipe or locate a phone as soon as you notice it missing, and of course it’s a good idea to report this yourself to the provider just as you would with a lost credit card.

Malware is also a concern, because if your Smartphone is infected by one of the growing range of malicious programs and apps that target mobile devices, sensitive data can be retrieved and sent to a third party without your knowledge. Again, security software can help, and with the wide range of games and applications now available across all phone platforms it’s more important than ever to make sure you have a suite installed that can scan these files and protect you from malicious code.

The range of features and conveniences available on Smartphones are only set to grow further as new technologies are introduced, so there’s never been a better time to increase awareness of mobile threats and consider additional protection to make sure you can enjoy using your device with peace of mind.

Unless otherwise noted this site and its contents are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada license.

Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy | University of Toronto