What Our Mobile Reliance Means For Security And Privacy

The next time you’re out and about, take a good look at the people around you. More specifically, look at their hands. We bet you would be hard-pushed to find many that don’t have a smartphone clutched in them.

Whether we’re taking business calls, perusing our favourite app, or just checking Facebook for the fiftieth time that day, smartphones have become as essential a part of our lives.

As a society, we’ve become reliant on smartphones as our gateway to the wider digital world.

Smartphones often form an integral part of the two-factor authentication process for banking, email and many other online services, which means we often can’t leave the house without them. We also hold a lot of confidential information on our devices, which can be a goldmine for potential criminals.

So the question really is, what does our reliance on mobile devices mean? Especially when it comes to our security and privacy as individuals and business owners?

How Do People Really Use Smartphones?

Before we dive into the security issues, let’s first take a look at what we’re actually using our smartphones to do. A survey from Adobe shows that:

  • 73% for directions
  • 70% of us use our phones for email
  • 65% for social media
  • 61% for reading articles
  • 59% for online video
  • 58% for research
  • 54% for photos
  • 47% for music
  • 45% for shopping
  • 41% for games

We use our phones the most for reading and sending emails, finding our way to places, reading articles and browsing social media. In other words, we’re using our smartphones for things we would have used a PC for in the past.

With mobile comes convenience and portability, which is exactly what we need in such a busy, hectic world.

Are Smartphones Improving Our Lives?

Haven’t smartphones improved our lives though? Haven’t they given us a new understanding of the world and access to all the information we could imagine at the touch of a button?

Well, in a lot of ways, they have. For starters, it’s much more difficult to get lost when you have a live, GPS-enabled map in your pocket. Smartphones have also helped us become savvier shoppers since we can compare prices quickly. They also help us remember things we might otherwise forget with note taking and Dictaphone apps.

Smartphones can help people cope with a disability, save time and even bring information to the developing world. Mobiles have also started to change the way our brains work. For instance, instead of clogging up our brains with information we may not need again, we are instead remembering how to access that information.

All of this knowledge gives us the ability to know much more about our world, even if it is filed in our brains a little differently. When you think about it, smartphones have done a lot for us.

But like everything in life, there are also some downsides. Mobile devices are incredibly easy to steal, for example. They are much easier to sell and when cracked, can provide criminal with a whole host of sensitive information.

In 2016, more than 446,000 mobile phones were stolen in the UK alone, in a variety of scenarios from unnoticed pickpocketing incidents to violent street robberies.

With new technologies and techniques, remote smartphone hacking is another area we need to be on the lookout for.

Staying Safe On Mobile 

So how do we keep our sensitive information safe when we rely so heavily on our mobile devices? Thankfully, there are some things we can do to protect ourselves, our devices, and our data:

  • Make sure your phone has all of the manufacturers security features turned on. Some of these might not be automatically enabled, so it’s always worth going into settings and turning them all on.
  • Give your device a strong passcode to foil any would-be thieves who want easy access to your data.
  • If you have an iPhone, make sure you have the ‘find my iPhone’ app turned on. This enables you to track your phone remotely, which is helpful if it’s lost or stolen. It also gives you the ability to wipe all the data on the device if you think it has been stolen. Android devices have a similar feature, called ‘find my device’.
  • Don’t download apps from third-party websites — only use your phone’s app store. Third-party websites offering app downloads often carry malware that can be used to obtain your personal data.
  • If you’re using public WIFI, make sure you don’t access any confidential apps like online banking. Public WIFI is inherently insecure. Criminals can easily, therefore, intercept information being transmitted on it – including your passwords and bank details.
  • Register your phone on The National Mobile Property Register (NMPR). The police have set up this register to help fight organised crime and help reunite owners with lost or stolen devices.
  • Note down your phones IMEI number (on paper, not within your device). The IMEI number is your phone’s unique identification number. The police will need this number for any stolen/lost reports, and for them to blacklist the device. It’s a unique 15-digit code, and you can usually find it by typing *#06# into your phone’s keyboard.

If your phone is lost or stolen, act quickly:

  • Call your network provider and have the phone blocked and blacklisted. Many organised criminal gangs take the SIM cards out and try to ring multiple premium-rate numbers. This may result in running up huge bills that you may be liable for if you do not notify your provider within 24hrs of the phone being lost or stolen.
  • If you’ve registered the device with the NMPR, notify them right away. This will notify resellers in the UK that it is a stolen phone.
  • Check ‘find my device/iPhone’ applications. If they don’t reveal that you actually just dropped the phone down the side of the sofa (or somewhere else within your home or workplace), wipe the data remotely. This will kick in as soon as the phone is connected to the internet, and will significantly lower the value of the device to criminals. 
  • Be aware that after any theft or loss, a common scam is to now text the victim some days later with messages purporting to be from the phone manufacturer. The message will say that your device has been found and will have an attached link to an official-looking web portal for you to enter your details. DO NOT enter your details. This is an attempt by criminals to enter your blocked stolen/lost device and an additional opportunity to infect your computer and steal more data. 
  • Change all of your passwords and passcodes.

Protect your Smartphone

While modern smartphone security is far stronger than an average PC, it’s important to remember that it is still breakable, and mobile devices are much easier to misplace or steal. With so much sensitive information stored in these palm-sized devices, security should be at the top of your mind when it comes to mobile data.

At Indigo IT, we help individuals and businesses manage their security around mobile devices, ensuring your personal and business data never falls into the wrong hands. If you would like to know more, just get in touch with us today.