Overcoming Mobile Security Threats

More than ever, we rely on our mobile devices. They’re small, valuable, and capable of going just about everywhere with us. A good screen protector and case combo goes a long way in preventing physical damage, but what about mobile security threats? Spyware, viruses, and malware are just a few of the things that can threaten your device and provide thieves with a window into your sensitive personal information. Simple strategies and basic tools can help you overcome these threats while providing you with peace of mind.

Types of Threats and How to Address Them

Mobile security threats can come from all directions. The networks you use, the websites you visit, and even the apps that you download can come with security issues. Making matters worse, even legitimate networks, sites, software, and apps can cause trouble.

Network and Web-Based Security Threats

Once you become aware of major network and web-based security threats, it’s fairly easy to improve your safety.

  • Wi-Fi Sniffing – seeks and intercepts unencrypted data as it travels between Wi-Fi access points and mobile devices.
  • Browser exploits – can get into your device and take advantage of vulnerabilities by installing malware and performing other unsafe actions.
  • Network exploits – connect to your device after taking advantage of flaws in software or operating systems. Once connected, network exploits can install malware. Keep your device security updated to minimize this risk.
  • Drive-by downloads – automatically download apps when you visit sites online. Sometimes apps open on their own; in other cases, you open them. Stop the download if you see it happening, or delete it without ever opening it if this happens.

You can address these issues by visiting only safe webpages, and by conducting financial transactions and other sensitive business from secure networks only. Also, be on the lookout for phishing scams designed to fool you into providing sensitive information like account numbers and passwords.

Issues with Applications

We all love our apps! Unfortunately, many downloadable apps are designed specifically to allow their designers to commit fraud – and even some legitimate apps can threaten your security.

  • Spyware – collects personal data without your approval or knowledge. Text messages, your location, your browser history, your private photos, your emails, and your call history are targeted. Stolen information is sometimes used for marketing purposes, as well as for financial fraud and identity theft.
  • Malware – can send unsolicited messages to people on your contact list, make charges to your mobile account, or even allow others to control your devices remotely.

Some applications gather contact lists, location, and information that can identify you. They may need some specifics to perform their functions, but gather more than necessary, either with or without your knowledge and/or permission. Never open suspicious links or attachments, and keep your device updated to ensure that its built-in security measures work properly.

Defending Your Device

Luckily, there are web security apps that guard against a variety of threats. Good security apps work in the background, scanning your device for threats and clearing harmful data. Some can even wipe your device completely clear of personal information in the event that it’s lost or stolen. Some apps are free, while others offer a higher level of protection for a small premium. A few examples:

  • Kaspersky Internet Security for Android – Offers malware detection, provides anti-theft functions, and supports a variety of devices. Some users have complained that the interface looks a little outdated and feels clunky. Costs just about $15 annually.
  • PSafe DFNDR Antivirus – Improves privacy, supports a variety of devices, and boosts performance while addressing all security risks. Available as a surprisingly robust free version, with some paid upgrades available.
  • ESET Mobile Security and Antivirus – Provides malware detection and offers anti-theft features. Interface appears to be just a bit outdated. It’s free to install, but works best with a paid subscription that starts at about $10 annually.
  • Norton Mobile Security – Comes with free call and text blocking. The paid version addresses other security issues and inspects software. Costs more than most others, but the paid version takes care of multiple devices. Priced at about $30 annually.

Mobile security apps are improving all the time. Once you choose one, be sure to keep it updated, and continue to view and download content with an eye toward protecting yourself from the latest digital threats.