Mobile Mayhem: Why Hackers Are Targeting Smartphones & Tablets

You love your smartphone. That little pocket device packs a lot of power; enough to play games, receive news alerts, check emails and a whole lot more. But you aren’t the only one who can’t get enough of your smartphone. Hackers are also interested in getting their prying eyes into your mobile device.

Smartphones and tablets are increasingly becoming targets for cybercriminals since mobile devices are much less secure than traditional personal computers. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to boost your mobile cyber security.

Don’t Get Caught by Phishers

Phishing is an age-old scam that cons users into sharing their personal login information through a fraudulent webpage. Links to these phony sign-in pages are often shared through social media postings, emails or text messages. The best thing you can do is avoid messages from anyone you don’t know well and refrain from clicking links which could be harmful to your device.

But it’s not always easy to spot a threat. Crafty hackers sometimes employ social engineering tactics to appear as legitimate users or services. If you are redirected to a sign-in page you are unsure about, it’s better to leave it alone rather than risk exposing your password.

Dangerous Downloads

There’s an app for that – but take a closer look. Many consumers put their cyber security at risk when they download an app without fully understanding the permissions required to use it. Flashlight, alarm clock, calculator and weather apps have been known to spy on user interactions or store malware on their device.

In an interview with CBS News, cybersecurity expert Gary Miliefsky said, “You think an alarm clock needs all those permissions? Access to the Internet over Wi-Fi, your call information, calls you’ve made, call history, your device ID? This to me is not a safe alarm clock.”

These sweeping permissions can also compromise consumer data in legitimate applications which store information in remote servers vulnerable to mining by cybercriminals seeking access to corporate networks.

In the end, it’s best to be aware of exactly what you are downloading and why. Review any application online before you download. If you have questions, ask an IT professional.

Careful Where You Connect

Mobile devices have given employees the opportunity to work from wherever they please. But connecting to a free Wi-Fi provider isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There are several forms of connection hijacking, the most common of which is the man-in-the-middle attack.

Let’s say you connect to the public Wi-Fi at the local coffee shop to access your corporate network. Even if you are protected by a firewall, you could still be targeted by a lurking hacker who has set up a rogue access point to monitor and save the traffic between you and your network, exposing massive amounts of sensitive data in the process. Yikes!

Remember to only use access points you know and trust when connecting to public Wi-Fi.

Mobile Banking Mayhem

As far as data goes, nothing is more valuable than your financial information. The FBI warns that hackers are targeting mobile phones with malware specifically designed to lift banking credentials.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The malware typically gets onto a phone when a user clicks on a text message from an unknown source or taps an advertisement on a website. Once installed, it often lies dormant until the user opens a banking app. The malware then creates a customized overlay on the authentic banking app. This allows criminals to follow a user’s movements on the phone and eventually grab credentials to the account.”

Ways to combat this include changing your password, updating your banking apps for new security patches and avoiding clicking unfamiliar links or advertisements.

Lack of Education

As you can see, cybercrime is moving to mobile; and too many consumers lack the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about their cyber security. According to Symantec’s Threat Report, 57 percent of adults are unaware that security solutions exist for mobile devices. The onus is on users and employers to educate themselves about digital threats and make better choices. In the end, the best defense against cybercrime is a careful eye and leery mindset.