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True or False?

Smartphone Security

Part of smartphone and cell phone security involves protecting the physical device from theft. Within the past year, there have been local reports of phones being snatched from outside dining tables or taken by strangers who ask to borrow the phone to make a call. But security of mobile devices also involves the technical soundness of the device. With smartphones becoming increasingly advanced, they can contain more and more of a user's personal information.

Consider some of these statistics:

  • 54% of smartphone users don't password-protect their phones.1
  • 31% of mobile users received a text message from someone they didn’t know, requesting that they click on an embedded link or dial an unknown number to retrieve a “voicemail.”2
  • In 2010, mobile vulnerabilities increased by 42% from the previous year.2
  • estimates that more than 6 million people globally were affected by Android malware between June 2011 and June 2012.
  • Weigh the risks and benefits of new technology.

    Maybe you can't wait to try the latest app or mobile capability, but be smart about being on the leading edge. A new feature can become the easiest target for hackers. As a consumer, be aware of the risks of using the newest technology.

    For example, a newer technology called Near Field Communication (NFC) is being touted as the next big thing in payment options. You'd be able to pay for your cup of coffee with a touch of your phone. No cash. No wallet. How easy is that? NFC could be used to provide access to a building and serve as a bus pass or library card.

    This technology may have many exciting uses, but users should be aware of the risks. Someone else lurking close by could try to intercept payment information. If your phone is stolen or lost and you're in the 54% of users who don't password-protect their phone, someone else could use the enabled NFC services. Just like with QR codes, you should be cautious of using your phone with these tags if you don’t know the purpose of the sticker.

  • If it happens on the computer, it can happen on a smartphone.

    This applies to viruses, malware, scams, etc. One recent article reports 90,000 phones compromised by a video app that contained a virus/malware, resulting in access to personal data on the phones. Smartphone users can also easily be misdirected by fake links.

  • What are the basics?

    • Password protect your phone.
    • Get apps from your phone's app store only. 
    • Install antivirus software on your phone and make sure it updates.
    • Install device-tracking software.
    • Turn off phone features that you don't use. In the case of NFC (mentioned above), that may mean turning it on/off as you use it.
    • Free and public wi-fi might not be worth the risk.
    • If you aren't expecting it, delete it. Whether it's an email or text from a stranger or an unexpected one from someone you know. If you aren't sure about, delete it. You can always call your friend and ask what they were sending.
  • More safety tips

    • Only give your number to people you know and trust.
    • Text only businesses and people you know in real life. 
    • Never take photo or video of someone without their permission.
    • If you upload photos from your phone, be aware of geotagging and the dangers associated with it.
    • Never give out someone else's number without their permission.
    • If your phone is lost or stolen, report it to your local police station and your network operator immediately.
    • Do not allow others to take pictures or videos of you without your permission. Remember – these pictures and videos can be posted to the Internet.

    Think your smartphone or other wifi-enabled device might be at risk? See Steps You Can Take to Secure Your Mobile Device .

    1 Lookout State of Mobile Security 2012
    2 Norton Cybercrime Report

Last Published 8/26/15