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Mobile security has become a significant concern due to the increased usage of smartphones and tablets. Some of us have separate devices for work and personal use. Older persons and children have also adopted mobile devices, reducing the number of individuals who do not have them.

Although mobile devices enable us to communicate, check our emails, download and send files, watch videos, take pictures, and much more, the numbers of threats facing our phones keep increasing every year.

Businesses have incorporated mobile technology and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trends in their operations. Therefore, our employees do not just come with their devices to work; they live on them.

Accessing corporate data from our mobile devices and connecting with clients has become a routine, and over the past three years, mobile device attacks have increased by over 41%.

As a result, protecting our devices from mobile security threats is becoming an intricate puzzle.

As we make smartphones and tablets part of our lives, hackers seek every way to attack them. Cyber-attacks’ nature continually evolves, making mobile devices a critical part of cyber-security efforts because businesses can’t neglect mobile device security.

This article explains mobile device security, how mobile security threats occur, and the different types of threats we should know about.

Definition

Mobile device security refers to safeguarding sensitive information stored in or transmitted through mobile devices, including laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other portable gadgets, against threats and vulnerabilities.

The designed measures help protect these devices against data breaches if unauthorized access or unintentional loss of a mobile device.

How Mobile Security Threats Happen

Although most of us expect Android and iPhone devices to be secure by default, in reality, it is up to us to adjust security configuration settings.

When we fail to change security configuration settings, hackers can access any nearby device in a flash of a second and either see everything on the mobile device or install malware that will enable them to breach data at their comfort.

Types of Mobile Security Threats

Cybercriminals use threats to execute mobile device security attacks that compromise or steal data from our mobile devices. These threats come in any size and shape we can think of, but in most cases, they fall under the following categories:

1. Application-Based Threats

The applications of our mobile devices serve as the root of most mobile gadgets’ vulnerability. These attacks occur when we download malicious applications that appear legit or allow unknown applications to access our device’s data without analyzing whether it is safe to do so or not. Once installed, these apps skim data from our devices without our consent.

2. Web-Based Threats

Web-based threats are understated and happen unnoticed. They happen when we visit affected websites that seem okay, but in reality, they are not. Attackers may send us an email or a random text that looks legit, but the email or text message contains a mischievous attachment or link.

When we click on the link or give personal information, the attacker gets unauthorized access to our mobile gadgets or steals our credentials to trick us or automatically install malicious content in our devices.

3. Network-Based Threats

Network-based threats happen when cybercriminals target mobile devices that we connect to unsecured or public Wi-Fi networks. In some cases, hackers put up fake free Wi-Fi networks to trick mobile device users.

These networks ask us to create an account with a username and a password to allow cybercriminals to compromise our data and credentials.

4. Physical Threats

Physical threats happen when we lose our mobile devices or someone steals them.

Failure to use a strong password, biometric authentication, or PIN or install unencrypted applications and services exposes our mobile gadgets to a wide range of mobile security issues.

This threat is mainly dangerous to businesses because hackers can easily access the hardware they store their private data.

Mobile Security Threats and Ways to Avoid Them

Although it is scary that attackers can use any of the threat categories mentioned above to inaugurate an attack on our mobile devices, our daily mobile behavior and usage can enable them to succeed in attacking our devices quickly.

The following are the most common ways we expose our devices and credentials to mobile device security attacks and tips on how we can guard ourselves:

1. Malicious Apps

Applications that we download from various sources other than official app stores, such as Google Play Store and Apple App Store, leak data due to lack of appropriate protection policies. Additionally, hackers release mischievous apps to steal the data we have stored in our devices and sell it to other parties when we download them. Data leaks can also happen through malware-infected applications that disperse specific operating systems’ codes, secretly moving data across enterprise networks.

Tip: To minimize the risk, only download applications from trusted providers, such as Apple App and Google Play Stores. Besides, we need to ask our employees to evaluate the permission request the apps make before downloading. If the app requests to access our location data, microphone, or camera, we should avoid the download.

2. Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks

Many companies have adopted remote working, thus increasing the number of free Wi-Fi networks in public places, such as restaurants, airports, and libraries. We find these useful because they allow us to save our mobile data. However, most of these networks are unsecured, meaning hackers can easily access our mobile devices and breach our data.

Tip: If possible, we should never connect our mobile device to unsecured Wi-Fi connections and never use any connection that requires you to create a personal account and password. If you must use these networks, never use them to access our accounts, including banking apps, social media accounts, or purchase anything online. We can also ask our employees to create unique passwords for every new account they sign in using their devices.

3. Browser Exploits

As the name suggests, browser exploits abuse any recognized security mistakes in our mobile device’s browser. They work against other applications that operate alongside our browsers, such as PDF readers. Thus, if we see our browser’s homepage unexpectedly change, we might have become browser exploits’ victims.

Tip: We should always ensure we keep our browsers patched. Additionally, we should use an updated antivirus tool on our mobile device systems, especially those we frequently browse the Internet with, such as laptops. Besides, we can install other browsers such as Google Chrome instead of Internet Explorer because Internet Explorer is a significant target for mobile device security attacks due to its market dominance.

4. Lack of End-To-End Encryption

Most of us recently spend more time at home and work remotely due to measures imposed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we have embraced the use of video conferencing tools on our mobile devices. Although this usage helps us participate in business meetings and keep in touch with our colleagues and families, it poses many risks, mostly if we use applications that do not encrypt conversations or function using weak algorithms.

Tip: We should always ensure we use applications and tools that guarantee our data and identities’ safety to ensure third parties cannot access our communications.

5. Inactive Apps

Apple and Google frequently remove apps from their stores without explanation. However, we can assume that the companies based this removal on privacy breaches and security threats.

Tip: Our workers and we should remain proactive in checking whether the apps installed on our devices are still active.

6. Viruses and Trojans

Viruses and Trojans also attack our mobile devices. They come attached to programs that look legit. They then hack our devices and mine data stored in them or information they can access, such as our banking details. Trojans and Viruses send premium text messages, and excessive data consumption causes app crushing and battery drainage. Other effects include pop-up adverts and spam texts, overheating, and installation of unknown apps

Tip: We can run an official antivirus app and reset or devices to factory settings to erase any corrupted data.

7. No Password Protection

Despite the many ways to secure our mobile devices, some do not have a password to lock mobile devices.

If these devices get stolen or lost, thieves get easy access to all the information we have stored in the gadget.

In contrast, those who have created a PIN or password typically used easy-to-crack codes, such as 8888 or birthday year. Besides, we use the same passwords to sign in to different accounts, including job and personal accounts.

Tip: If your employees use personal devices to access company data, create identity access management systems to allow them. Additionally, use a strong password for confidential and business log-ins. It also helps to use different passwords for different sign-ins, and never disclose passwords to third parties.

8. Phishing

Phishing is tactic hackers use to trick us into thinking that the received email comes from a credible source, such as a utility company or a bank.

They send us emails, SMS, or direct messages to access our details, including hobbies, financial records, and work history.

Tip: We should never open or reply to an email or message unless we know the sender. Besides, never click on any links or download attachments and delete the messages immediately.

9. Lost or Stolen Device

Losing a mobile device remains one of the most challenging threats to fight. This is because it enables attackers to acquire the data they need.

Most employees stay logged-in in enterprise apps. However, attackers can monitor employees’ sites using their devices and apps connected to the company’s data. They can then steal these devices to access our business data.

Tip: Use your BYOD policies to ensure workers know what they can do if they lose their gadgets.

The Bottom Line

Although mobile devices face many security threats, we can take various actions to protect ourselves, our data, and our employees. We can reach out to Teamstack, a Cloud Identity Management specialist, to keep our employees’ and company’s data safe.