FAQ: Using your smartphone safely

Smartphones aren’t just smart, they’re personal computers. Unlike a desktop or even a laptop PC, those devices and other mobile phones can easily slip out of a pocket or purse, be left in a taxi, or get snatched off a table.

They let you store photos, access e-mails, receive text messages, and put you one browser click away from potentially malicious Web sites.

In effect, gadgets like the Apple iPhone and those running Google’s Android software can be as risky to use as PCs, except that the wide variety of mobile platforms has deprived malicious hackers of one dominant software element to target, such as they have with Microsoft’s Windows operating system on desktops and laptops.

Look at the different types of threats that affect smartphone users and what people can do to protect themselves.

Losing your mobile phone is the biggest security threat to your smartphone. Mobile device users should also be careful about leaving the phone unattended, or loaning it to people. Spyware can be installed without you knowing it. For instance, the PhoneSnoop program can be used with BlackBerry devices to remotely turn the microphone on to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.

They can get viruses – Mobile viruses, worms and Trojans have been around for years. They typically arrive via e-mail but can also spread via SMS and other means

Smartphone users are vulnerable to e-mail and Web-based attacks like phishing and other social-engineering efforts. All attackers have to do is create a malicious Web page and lure someone to visit the site where malware can then be downloaded onto the mobile device.

Recognizing phising emails. Researchers also showed how an attacker could spoof an SMS to make it look like it comes from the carrier to get the target to either download malware or visit a site hosting it.

Safe to use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth? Yes and no. If you are doing something sensitive on your phone, like checking a bank account or making a payment, don’t use the free Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or other access point. Use your password-protected Wi-Fi at home or the cellular network to avoid what is called as a man-in-the-middle attack in which traffic is intercepted. Pairing a mobile phone with another Bluetooth-enabled device, like a headset, means any device that can “discover” another Bluetooth device can send unsolicited messages or do things that could lead to extra fees, data being compromised or corrupted, data stolen in an attack called “bluesnarfing,” or the device being infected with a virus.

“Regardless of what type of cell phone, the most dangerous current threat is through a cellphone’s in/out message boxes,” he said. “Clear (them) out regularly. Do not transmit full account numbers, PIN or passwords within a text message unless you immediately delete the out box message.”

Full Article via CNN


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