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Protect your mobile device December 13, 2013

Posted by brltkd in Security.
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Mobile devices are the fastest growing type of device used to access the Internet. They are extremely powerful while being simple to use, and they allow access to information from nearly anywhere. However, there are a number of thing to consider so information remains secure when they are used to access sensitive information.

One of the primary considerations is controlling access to the device. Mobile devices are primarily designed for a single user. Applications such as email programs often save the user name and password so the user does not need to enter it each time they check their email. However, if there is no restriction on who can access the device, anyone that picks up the device can immediately access your email, read personal information, and impersonate you without restriction. The small form factor of mobile devices compounds this risk. It is easy to forget where you left it or unknowingly drop it somewhere. In just a 6-month period, more than 31,000 people left phones behind in New York City taxicabs [1]. Simply enabling an authentication method for your device, such as a password or PIN, or even a fingerprint or facial recognition requirement to access the phone would significantly mitigate the risk of unauthorized users.

It is also important to protect the information on your device. Even if you enable an authentication mechanism, it is generally possible to connect the device to a computer through the USB port and easily access all the information. Therefore, you should enable encryption on your mobile devices. Most devices have native capabilities to encrypt accounts, settings, applications, and their associated data. This is usually possible for both the internal memory as well as external SD cards installed. Encryption makes is significantly more difficult for someone to access your information even if they physically possess the device.

Even if you have enabled authentication and encrypted your device, it is still an uncomfortable feeling when your device is missing because there is still a risk an unknown person may have access to your personal information. A number of software packages are available to help locate missing devices by activating their GPS or delete personal information from the device remotely [2]. Some applications allow the remotely take a picture with the devices camera which could help you find the device or identify a person that stole it [3].

Mobile devices have tremendous capabilities and can simplify communication. However, these conveniences come at the expense of exposing your personal and sensitive information to the risk of being lost or stolen. Enabling the security features like authentication and encryption, which are built into most devices, will help reduce the risk with a minor impact to functionality. Additionally, many third party software packages will help recover missing devices or erase the data if necessary. Using these features are important steps that everyone should take to protect themselves.

 

[1] E. Chickowski, “10 Best Practices for Mobile Device Security,” Baseline, 26 February 2009. [Online]. Available: http://www.baselinemag.com/c/a/Mobile-and-Wireless/10-Best-Practices-for-Mobile-Device-Security/.
[2] TopTenREVIEWS, “Mobile Security Software Review,” TopTenREVIEWS, 2013. [Online]. Available: http://mobile-security-software-review.toptenreviews.com/.
[3] L. Mearian, “Carbonite app enables remote activation of Android cell phone cameras,” ComputerWorld, 11 December 2012. [Online]. Available: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9234593/Carbonite_app_enables_remote_activation_of_Android_cell_phone_cameras.
[4] E. Chickowski, “10 Mobile Security Best Practices,” Baseline, 26 February 2009. [Online]. Available: http://www.baselinemag.com/c/a/Mobile-and-Wireless/10-Mobile-Security-Best-Practices/.

 

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