How secure are our mobile phones?

How secure are our mobile phones?

With technology getting as advanced as it is today, and with devices such as Google Glass sparking up debates about personal privacy and security, it leads us to question: how secure are our mobile phones?

Master Key

Last year security research firm Bluebox has uncovered a major flaw in Android phones which essentially provides hackers with a loophole to access your device.

The research has shown that a “master key” could be used to access data, send junk messages and listen in to your phone calls; the loophole exists on every Android device made since 2009.

Although Google has updated its system after these findings, a spokesman at Bluebox confirmed that the internet giant was made aware of its security failings all the way back in February 2013, several months before it hit the press.

However, it appears that this loophole had been discovered in time, as there’s no research that suggests that hackers or cyber-thieves attempted to exploit the Android operating system in this way.

Twitter Hackers

Numerous high profile Twitter accounts have been hacked by a variety of sources in the past, leading to Twitter having to tighten up its security procedures.

Accounts including the BBC, the Financial Times and even President Obama have reportedly been hacked into, and while this might have occurred using computer software, the popularity of the Twitter smartphone app, which in many cases is pre-installed onto phones, makes this a serious concern.

Furthermore, back in February 2013, Twitter suffered from another cyber-attack when 250,000 of its users had their passwords stolen.

Twitter has taken a stand against hackers and has introduced a new two-step authentication procedure for users to follow before logging into their Twitter accounts.

Are some phones more at risk than others?

The short answer to this is yes.

Apple devices have for a long time been considered the more secure of all mobile phones, mainly due to their sandbox configuration, which effectively disables malicious malware from accessing an iPhone.

As mentioned above, however, Androids are known as easy targets for hackers and cyber-thieves. This is because their structure is more closely related to PCs than the iPhone is which makes it easier for experienced hackers to break down the usual security measures built by OS creators.

The openness of the Google Play Store is another reason why Androids are so easy to attack; because developers have to meet fewer quality controls when submitting an app, hackers are able to enter devices through malicious apps which you may unknowingly download onto your phone.

BlackBerry devices, on the other hand, are much safer than Androids, and as a result of encryption software that protects your data, BlackBerrys are more popular with business users who require an added level of security.

How to protect your mobile phone

Here are a few tips to help you protect your own mobile phone:

Apps

The main way that hackers access your phone is via the apps that you download. As mentioned above, Androids have fewer quality controls within their apps as Apple do, which means that Android users have to be extra vigilant when it comes to downloading apps.

The best advice is to always stick to apps that you recognise, and don’t get tempted into buying a dodgy-looking version of an app that's on the cheap.

Most cyber-thieves load their malicious software onto another app and distribute it for free, so it can be difficult to spot a bad app against a good one.

However, when you download any programs, your phone will always ask you to check the permissions of the app. Whilst most apps need to identify your location, they should never ask you to send text messages on your behalf, as this can allow hackers to stack up a hefty bill on your behalf, so avoid installing any apps which require you to do this.

Anti-virus software

As you are probably familiar with on your computer, there are various anti-virus programs out there which can be installed on your mobile phone too.

Programs such as Lookout Security & Antivirus as well as AVG’s security have been adapted for mobile and prices can vary from free to about £30 for an annual subscription.

Anti-theft apps

Another type of app that have hit the news is the range of tracking apps that, as you’d imagine, track your mobile at times when it gets lost or stolen.

Apps such as Find My iPhone (as demonstrated in the Hangover movie trilogy) use GPS to help you track your mobile; if you fail to find your phone again, these apps will enable you to remotely lock the phone so a thief cannot access any of your data.

Passwords

This might sound like an obvious piece of advice, but it’s something so many people fail to do. It is always a good idea to set-

up some form of password to unlock your device, whether it’s a swipe pattern or a 4 digit code. This won’t stop cyber-attackers accessing your phone via apps or emails, but it will stop thieves who pick up your handset.

You should also set-up passwords for all of your email, texts messaging and social media accounts, as it is far too easy for a hacker to get hold of your contacts, email addresses and Facebook friends by accessing an open app. What’s more, it is important if you do set-up a password on all of your apps not to allow your device to automatically save your details, as your phone won’t recognise if it’s not you trying to open up Twitter or your Gmail inbox.




What manufacturers are doing to secure your phone

While individuals are doing whatever they can to ensure that their phones are 100% secure, mobile phone manufacturers are also putting security at the top of their priorities when it comes to designing new devices.

Touch ID on the iPhone

For example, the iPhone 6 features the TouchID fingerprint scanner, which can protect your phone to an added level. This of course debuted on the iPhone 5s and has since been used on several other high-end devices.

Samsung Knox
 

Samsung Knox is a security program for Smartphones

Also, Samsung has introduced Samsung Knox, a security feature designed to keep your files encrypted safely on your handset. Not only does it keeo your information hidden away, but it also makes it extremely hard to gain access to without the correct details.

Of course, as technology develops, so will ways of accessing our data maliciously, meaning we need to stay at the top of our game to ensure private info stays private.

What are your thoughts on smartphone security? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

Written by Charlotte Kertrestel

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