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Mobile devices: the illusion of security

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Wow, you've just bought the latest and greatest of mobile devices. You're the first one on the block to have the best phone that can think for you because it's so smart. A tablet or a notebook, it's awesome. You shouldn't have to worry about your information because the manufacturers are all about security and protecting your information. You see it in all the commercials, "Our applications function a fraction of a second slower because of our encryption, or other security applications that come standard."

What? You haven't seen that commercial? You've only seen the ones about doing more and doing it faster? The reality is the consumer desire for ever faster and more functionality makes security a secondary priority. Most mobile devices have very little security, making them an easy target for hackers.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated, "Combine the lack of security with the fact that mobile devices are being targeted by cybercriminals and you have a bad situation."

According to the GAO the number of variants of malicious software aimed at mobile devices has reportedly risen from about 14,000 to 40,000, or about 185 percent, in less than a year. The manufacturers of the devices and the Internet providers are easy targets of blame, but the reality is, these vulnerabilities also result from the poor security practices of consumers.

Most people don't believe their mobile devices are exposed to the same threats as their laptops. But cellphones, notepads and other devices are computers with operating systems and applications exposed to the network in exactly the same way as any other computer. We do a lot of things with our mobile devices, such as banking, business emails, and other business transactions that expose sensitive data to the open network. The threat of breaching confidentiality is very real.

But, that's not the only risk. Mobile devices are an easy access point to introduce malware. Many consumers download applications on their devices. How many people research the source of these applications before they download them? I'm guilty! I can't help it. I'm addicted to Sudoku.

Most devices have the capability to be password protected. At a minimum they have the capability of a personal identification number (PIN). Some really fancy devices have biometric devices such as fingerprint scanners to verify the user, but owners don't always use these capabilities. Those that do use security capabilities often use PINs that are easy to remember or worse, easy to figure out. "1234" and "0000" are the first PINs hackers try. How many of you reading this article see themselves? Change your PIN. DO IT NOW! I'll wait.

Many of our acquaintances might know pertinent personal information such as birth date and anniversaries, and if they don't, it is easy to get. If you're using that type of information for passwords, you might be setting yourself up for exploitation.

So do we just give up? Not use our mobile devices? That would inhibit our lifestyles and businesses! We can fight back and stick it to the bad guys by simply using more complex passwords or PINs, and making sure that password fields are blocked. Install anti-malware software and keep it current. Lastly make sure that your mobile device can be locked or erased remotely in the event of theft or loss. Taking the time to make sure you mobile device is secure is not hard. It might take a little time, but it's nothing compared to what you'll have to do if your device is lost and all your information falls into the wrong hands. It really comes down to this -- do you apply a minute of prevention, or months of cure?

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Submitted by Taranet Inc.

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