The Privacy Dilemma

Our reliance on gadgets, and the fact that some of them almost govern our lives, means the associated security risks are high. For business, misappropriation is a big issue. Not only do we store a large amount of information on our gadgets, they are increasingly becoming our gateway to online services.

Smartphones that aren’t properly decommissioned also leave us vulnerable. As smartphone use becomes even more prevalent, we can expect to see more malware and other viruses targeting devices.

A serious security flaw was recently uncovered that affects some Samsung Android smartphones. The flaw allowed hackers to erase the device remotely, simply by sending an SMS or getting the user to click on a URL.

Threats to mobile security aren’t always obvious. It’s surprisingly easy to hack a smart device. Easier still for users to download a game or another similarly innocuous app that, once installed, turns that phone into a bug. PlaceRaider, a malware created by the United States Navy to showcase Android vulnerabilities, does just that. The app activates the phone’s camera and other sensors, collects data to create a 3D image of the phone’s physical location including sensitive data that may be visible on computer monitors or desks.

In the past mobile devices have had limited appeal for hackers, most likely due to a lack of potential financial gain. But a recent report from Symantec found cyber threats to mobile devices are on the increase, in fact they more than doubled between 2010 and 2011.

We love our gadgets but, at the risk of sounding dramatic, they have the potential to turn against us. We need to develop new habits, individually and on a business level, to contain the threat. Using common sense will go a long way to mitigating the risk, but there are a few other things that can limit the danger of misappropriation.

1/ Stay generic or use code when customizing your contact list, don’t list contacts as ‘home’, ‘honey’ or ‘bank’

2/ Avoid accessing sensitive information on your smartphone, wait until you’re at the office
on a protected network

3/ Make sure your device is password protected

4/ Don’t install unknown apps, even if they’re free

Perhaps the next innovation for the smartphone will be a ‘disconnect’ function that can securely cut-the-cord when we need to.

This article originally appeared in MISC Summer 2013, The Bounce Back Issue.

the author

Idris Mootee

Idris Mootee is the publisher and editor-in-chief of MISC and CEO of Idea Couture. See his full bio here.