Experts warn of smartphone security

(Smart phones)
August 31, 2011 7:08:14 PM PDT
You wouldn't think of leaving your computer open to viruses and hackers, but your smartphone probably doesn't have the same protections, and that could make you vulnerable. One consumer advocate ABC7 spoke with compared leaving your phone unprotected to leaving the front door open to your home.

We enter passwords into our smartphones. We input credit card information, and sometimes even our bank account numbers, and all of that personal data is vulnerable to identity theft.

"People need to realize that they face the same risks as PCs, and they should also adopt the security behavior that they have on their computers," said Jon Fox with CALPIRG.

One of those risks includes phishing attacks, especially those who access Twitter and Facebook.

"You can get links from people that will take you to sites that purport to be one thing, but in fact are something else," said CNET Senior Associate Editor Seth Rosenblatt. "People steal your information as you enter it."

Rosenblatt recommends securing iPhones with Trend Micro Smart Surfing. Android users might want to consider Look Out Mobile Security and AVG Mobilation. Rosenblatt said the apps often warn people if a website they visit is malicious. All three apps are free.

A recent study by the security firm VIA Forensics found 75 percent of apps tested failed to adequately secure user account names, and nearly 70 percent of personal financial information was left on the device itself.

"Meaning it's not encrypted," said Fox. "Meaning it's left as plan text, or in a manner you can just read normally."

Fox suggests several things you can do to protect yourself: Password protect your phone, don't use the same password for different accounts, use only authorized apps from your bank or reputable publisher, download only popular apps that have been used by many consumers, keep close tabs on your bills to prevent unauthorized charges and avoid unsecured wireless internet hotspots.

"When you log in to any Wi-Fi that doesn't have a password on it, that means it's an insecure Wi-Fi and we try to recommend that people try to avoid those and only use private, password-protected Wi-Fi hotspots," Fox said.

Do that and you'll feel protected.

"I think, as long as people take the necessary steps to protect themselves, such as putting on your seat belt when you drive a car, there are certain things we can to do mitigate the risk," said Rosenblatt, "and people can be able to browse and use the internet safely from their mobile devices."

LINKS:

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Smart Phone Safety tips from Identity Theft Resource Center

VIA Forensics Smart Phone Safety Study

App test results


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