Mobile devices or Smartphone’s have become ingrained in the fabric of our modern society. Globally, there are around 5.9 billion Smartphone users and almost 90% of their time is spent scrolling through apps. Interestingly, they’ve in fact replaced desktops as the primary medium for conducting monetary transactions. Apart from that, it is increasingly being employed for storing sensitive information like contact, emails, passwords, bank account details, and more. Because of such continuous utilization, mobile apps have become extremely vulnerable to data and security breaches.

The question is, what can we as users do to safeguard our data and prevent our devices from malicious entities. This article has been specifically curated for you to understand the most prevalent security threats out there and the preventive measures one can take to prevent security threats.

Types of mobile security threats

Mobile threats can be classified into four major categories

  • Web-based threats
  • Network-based threats
  • Application-based threats
  • Physical threats

Web-based threats

Web-based threats are malware programs that make their way to your system while you are innocently browsing the internet. Malware is generally elusive and frequently goes unnoticed because they infect your system in an extremely inconspicuous manner. They usually get onboard when you visit an insecure website that might not have security layers employed on them.

Network-based threats

Network-based threats are attacks that are launched and controlled by cybercriminals or hackers to steal unencrypted data from users’ devices. It occurs mostly when people use public Wi-Fi networks.

Application-based threats

Application-based threats are the ones that occur when users download an application which looks fine but stealthily acquires sensitive data from the user’s devices. Such malicious apps may gather user’s personal data such as location, contact list, personal information, and more. Malware, spyware, and vulnerable application can be considered as the factors that open doors for application-based threats.

Physical threats

Physical threats are the ones that occur when a device is stolen or lost. Hackers can get direct access to the hardware where all private data is stored, this threat is particularly harmful to enterprises.

Major threats and their prevention

1.   Malicious apps

Malicious apps are a problem for many enterprises. You might’ve noticed that whenever you want to download an app, you’re asked for a list of permissions before the download begins. These permissions usually request access to files and folders on a mobile device. Inadvertently and without going into great detail most people agree not thinking twice about what it actually means to grant access to these things. Even if the downloaded app works fine, it still has the potential to mine data and further it to third parties. Thus, your sensitive business and product information gets disclosed.

Prevention: As a prevention strategy, ask your employees to refrain from downloading any malicious apps. Most malicious apps aren’t well designed and their description page on the App Store lacks relevant content. Furthermore, also review the permissions that the app might be asking for. If these permissions seem unrelated or unusual from what you’re trying to accomplish through the app, then abstain from downloading it.

2.   Spyware attacks

Android and iOS devices are vulnerable to spyware attacks that mine user data. In a recent incident, Apple identified a vulnerability called “three zero-day” which left iPhones vulnerable to spyware attacks. In another similar instance, back in 2016 a spyware called Pegasus hacked iPhones and tracked user activities. Subsequently, Apple had to release patches with updates. Likewise, Android devices were attacked with fake app downloads that collected user data and tracked activities. As a countermeasure, Google developed Play Protect to safeguard against such attacks in the future.

Prevention: In order to prevent user data from spyware attacks, ask your employees to download a mobile security app. Additionally, it should be mandated for employees to update their device software at regular intervals.

Read More: Computer Vision: The Future of Security

3.   Public Wi-Fi

Since the pandemic, organizations have started offering remote work options because of which many people have started utilizing public Wi-Fi for work. Using such Wi-Fi poses an increased risk of phishing attacks and hacking. It happens when people are tricked into accessing a network that looks authentic but is actually controlled by attackers. Accessing these networks people unwittingly hand over their personal as well as corporate data to attackers. 

Prevention: It is important for employees to create unique passwords for every new account that they create. If the password pattern is common, it becomes more vulnerable to hacking.

4.   No end-to-end encryption

It is critical to apply end-to-end communication between the organization and employees as well as amongst employees to shield from data breaches. If employees communicate and share sensitive information with other employees without end-to-end encryption; it is still vulnerable to breaches.

Prevention: Use communication apps that make data end-to-end encrypted so that the data remains safe and can’t be accessed by outsiders.

5.   Mobile security threats from IoT devices

The mobile application is not only for Smartphone’s and tablets, but also smart watches and other IoT devices that are employed to improve workflow and efficiency such as CCTV cameras, sensors, and more. These devices pose a vulnerability point for the proliferation of ransomware. Hackers can acquire access to your corporate data and other information by easily hacking these mobile devices, since many IoT devices don’t employ additional security such as mobile phones or desktops do.

Prevention: It is critical to train employees in utilizing the IoT devices safely. It can be done by educating them via video tutorials, email newsletters, blog posts, and more. The objective of the training should be to make employees aware of possible threats to mobile security.

Conclusion

According to McAfee mobile threat report, hidden mobile apps (malicious apps) accounted for half of the mobile app threats in 2019. Another report pointed out that malicious apps were the reason for half of the mobile security threats the same year. There are many other alarming statistics that provide compelling reasons to make mobile security a priority this new year. Following the best practices and safety measures is critical for enterprises and individuals to ensure the safety of their devices and their valuable data.

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