Instead of being chained to a desk and PC (or Mac) or even a laptop, people are increasingly connecting for work, play, and entertainment “on the go” via smartphones and other mobile devices. According to Pew Research, nearly all Americans (97%) own a cellphone of some type, and 85% own smartphones. The number of smartphone users worldwide is 3.8 billion, and that number is projected to increase to 4.3 billion in 2023.
Today, 15% of American adults are “smartphone-only” internet users – meaning they own a smartphone, but don’t have traditional home broadband service. More than 50% (2 billion) smartphone users worldwide exclusively access the internet through their smartphones.
Mobile Threats are Real…and on the Rise
Mobile devices inherently put users’ data privacy at risk. Carrying a smartphone is like being tracked by an ankle bracelet! Just as your PC is vulnerable to viruses, malware, and spyware, mobile devices are even more susceptible to a variety of threats. Contrary to popular belief, existing mobile device security does not fully protect your data, even if you use an iOS (Apple) device. Whether you use an Android or Apple device, the following are ever-present risks you need to be aware of:
Mobile devices are easily lost or stolen. The devices are valuable not only because the hardware itself can be sold on the black market, but more importantly because of the sensitive personal and even financial information it may contain that can also be sold to nefarious buyers.
Malicious apps can be created by almost anyone. These apps are designed to allow hackers to access your information. Even legitimate software can be exploited for malicious gain.
Malware and Spyware can be installed on your phone without your knowledge. Malware can make changes or send unsolicited messages to your contacts, or even give an attacker control over your device. Spyware collects or uses your private data, such as browser history, location, and more, that can be used for identity theft or fraud.
Privacy Threats may be caused by applications that are not necessarily malicious, but gather or use sensitive information (e.g., location, contact lists) that is necessary to perform their function but could be shared with third parties who don’t necessarily need your data.
The more people use their mobile devices, the more mobile security threats will increase as hackers and trackers target the vast amount of data that is being stored and shared on these devices.
5 Steps You Can Take to Secure Your Mobile Device
- Use Screen Lock. Even if you are obsessively careful with your device, life happens. You could inadvertently leave your phone somewhere or drop it out of your pocket. Having the screen lock set gives you time to locate the device before your data is breached.
- Only Download Reputable Apps. As a basic rule, only download apps from reputable sources, such as Google Play or the iOS App Store. Even that’s not a guarantee so check the reviews and research the app before downloading it.
- Disable App Permissions: Review app permissions when you download a new app and periodically to make sure they only have access to the data they absolutely need to have.
- Never Connect to Public Wi-Fi. When you connect to a Wi-Fi network all your data is transmitted through it. If you connect to an open Wi-Fi network that doesn’t require a password, your online activities could be intercepted by malicious entities or even other nearby devices.
- Install Privacy-Conscious DuckDuckGo. If you’re using Chrome as your web browser and Google as your search engine, your online activity is constantly being tracked. Switch to another search engine that offers greater privacy protections, such as DuckDuckGo. You can change your default search engine from Google to DuckDuckGo or do away with Chrome altogether and download the DuckDuckGo app.