April 25 – otherwise known as National Telephone Day – rolls around once a year to remind us of the sheer technologic prowess and influence of the phone. What first started as an industrial revolution invention from Alexander Graham Bell, the phone has undergone quite a remarkable evolution over its nearly 150 years of existence. When people say the word ‘phone’ today, the device they’re talking about is widely different. The phone of the past has become the gateway into our digital identities and now holds the keys to all the connected things in our homes. As dependency on our mobile devices continues to grow, potential cyberthreats and need for mobile security does as well.
Consumers have been quick to adopt mobile phones, more so than at any point in the telephone’s storied history. It’s estimated that 95% of Americans own a cell phone today. This goes to show that the phone has not only become an instrumental device in today’s society, but it also speaks to how it has evolved beyond its initial capabilities to serve as a device that contains our digital persona. A phone is no longer a convenient piece of equipment but a fundamental element of many people’s lifestyles, so much so that many can’t even unplug while on vacation—only 27% say they’re unwilling to leave their smartphones at home when on vacation. As today’s world becomes more digital and interconnected, our mobile phones are at the heart of this transformation.
Of course, with any device that contains this much power and influence, the mobile phone has also become the target of cybercriminals and hackers, making mobile security a cause for much concern. McAfee Labs detected over 16 million mobile malware infestations in the third quarter of 2017, and new threats continue to emerge around the world, most of which target a consumer’s money. However, according to a recent CES Survey, 52% of respondents are either unsure of or have no idea how to check to see if their mobile devices and apps are secure against these kinds of threats—which is worrisome considering these latest mobile trends:
- More targeted attacks – Following the money, a global spike in banking Trojans has occurred, targeting large multinationals and small regional banks.
- Virtual bank robberies – With the growing interest in cryptocurrencies, cybercriminals are attempting virtual bank robberies by distributing fake mobile wallets and targeting the cryptocurrency industry.
- States using malware – North Korean dissidents and journalists using the popular South Korean chat app KakaoTalk were recently targeted in a State-instigated malware attack, with the aim of implanting spyware on the victim’s device.
- Persistent threats – The increasing proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices are significantly heightening the threat landscape, increasing the number of possible points of attack.
In order to feel safe and secure when you shout “Call me, maybe!”, take some time out of whatever festivities you may have planned for National Telephone Day to consider these tips on how to keep your mobile phones and devices secure:
- Update regularly – Regularly updating your devices helps ensure they are armed with critical patches that protect against bugs or flaws in their operating systems that cybercriminals can leverage. Though it’s very tempting to skip out on these updates, taking a few minutes to download them means you aren’t recklessly leaving your devices open for hackers. This also applies to apps on your phone as well.
- Use a complex password – A complex password is a secure password, so there’s no excuse to skate by with your own birthdate or a “1234” code for your mobile devices anymore. It’s good practice to have distinct passwords for every device, even though it’s a bit more burdensome on you. Still, choosing a safe and secure password is always the priority. Be sure to throw in a mix of numbers and symbols to avoid making it easy for potential hackers.
- Turn off geolocation – When it comes to geolocation or sharing your location with apps and other services on your phone, approach with caution. It’s a good rule of thumb to only activate geolocation permissions when it’s crucial for an app’s ability to work (i.e. Uber, Google Maps, etc.). Otherwise, hackers can start to uncover your exact whereabouts and understand your movement patterns.
- Use security software – Finally, I can’t stress enough how important it is to use comprehensive security software to protect your mobile phones and devices from the inside out.