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Mobile Security: witchcraft and sorcery all around us

Your phone’s been stolen. But it’s still in your pocket.

Sounds less like a blog about mobile security and more like the premise for some Derren Brown trickery, doesn’t it? He removes the device from your pocket, replacing it with a pack of cards and bewilderingly your phone ends up on the other side of the theatre. And then he gets you to think of a random number which turns out to be the number of the torn-out page (from a book some other guy was holding) on which the word another random audience member has picked at random has been underlined. I speak from experience. It’s most confusing.

But no, the threat to your phone is not only to the device – that’s valuable, but probably not as valuable as some of the information stored on it. Especially if you’re a business user and your phone has access to company data or communications.

Confidence tricks

Think about it. You probably have a computer of some kind or you use one as part of your work. It’s widely-known that viruses, malware, spyware and myriad other nasty-ware exist for your laptop or desktop computer. Your computer connects to the internet and downloads your emails. If you slip up and open one of the email attachments that claims to be the details of that multi-million-dollar transaction from the son of a Nigerian military official, you can quickly find your computer sending filthy emails to your grandmother or simply refusing to start up or shut down. The ne’er-do-wells creating the evil-ware have tended to target the platforms most widely-used, so it’s always been a bigger risk opening such emails on computers running Windows. This gives the infection the best chance of spreading and causing its mayhem.

It’s also widely-known that there is software available for our computers that can help prevent such unpleasantness. Programs that you can install and have running in the background, scanning all incoming files and emails, and running regular checks on your system to keep it as free as possible from all that insidious-ware and cyber infections. Our software – niceware – of choice is Threattrack’s Vipre Internet Security and it does a very good job, detecting spam and bad websites as well as running the all-important antivirus functions. So, good: our internet-connected laptop or desktop PC is protected.

Misdirection

But while we’ve been busy concentrating on protecting one set of web-connected devices, the portable devices in our pockets have been getting smarter, more connected and more integral to our daily lives and communication. Those same emails from Nigeria can make their way to your phone. The browser on your iPhone or iPad can load up a website with wicked intentions just as easily as your laptop. Your phone or tablet might belong to the company you work for, or you might use it for work through a BYOD scheme (or just connecting to your work email directly).

As platforms, iOS (on iPhone and iPad) and Android (on almost all other smartphones – sorry, Microsoft) have gradually become two of the most widely-used operating systems on the planet. And this means the targets for odious-ware are shifting. Your phone is probably switched on more than your computer. It’s probably connected to the internet via WiFi, 3G or 4G almost all the time. It’s a prime candidate for hackers.

What was the first thing you were thinking of?

All this brings us back to your stolen phone. It’s still there in your pocket, or in front of you while you sip your skinny latte or whatever that abomination is you’re drinking. But it’s busily sending all your contacts to someone harvesting people’s identification details, tracking all the sites you visit and apps you use and logging the usernames and passwords you enter to access them. Or simply sending even more filth to your grandmother. It’s the contents that are being stolen and chances are, you won’t even be aware of it.

The ace in your sleeve

To every cloud, a silver lining. It’s not only PCs that have protection from sinister-ware. You can defend your mobile devices against pernicious programs and heinous hackers using Mobile Security software.

At Idency, we have a suite of products from Threattrack, from the single Android device software Vipre Mobile Security to the multi-device Vipre Business software, which includes Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Mobile Security for the devices connected.

The other software we recommend is Check Point Mobile Threat Prevention which uses a range of methods to keep your iOS or Android phone or tablet secure, including its Behavioural Risk Engine, which monitors network activity, apps and the device itself to keep vulnerabilities in check.

Vipre and Checkpoint products are geared towards business and enterprise users, so they’re not a perfect fit for many people looking just to secure their personal mobile. For that, you could do worse than ZoneAlarm, which has the same kinds of protection against vulnerable WiFi connections and malicious apps. Find out more at the ZoneAlarm website.

Mobile security: now that’s magic

As Arthur C Clarke stated, ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’. The technology ‘stealing’ your phone from under your watchful gaze isn’t magic, but it’s certainly pretty advanced. Fortunately, there’s a little technical wizardry you can have on your side, too. Get in touch to find out more.