October is Cyber-Security Awareness Month! Week 4

Best Practices for Device Applications

by Dan Donnelly

Recently, there was a new, at least for me, phishing attempt through my cell phone. It started like it has hundreds of times before for most of us with someone from an unidentified number trying to call me. However, this “person” didn’t leave a voice mail or hang up, but instead proceeded to leave a text. The text said something about selling your property and cited a specific address, but the person being addressed in the text wasn’t me. My cybersecurity instincts kicked in and I deleted the text and blocked the caller. Even if the caller’s intent wasn’t malicious, it’s better to be vigilant than to have a security breach that could be difficult to fix.

According to Statista, mobile phone users have surpassed the 5 billion mark. Cybercriminals are constantly on the lookout for mobile users who are vulnerable to hacking attacks. There is a certain dichotomy in our mobile devices in that they make our lives easier and can make us more productive while there is always a looming threat of a crippling cyberattack that can alter our lives. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to help mitigate the threat.

Here are 10 best practices for mobile security.

1. User Authentication

Restricting access to the device by requiring user authentication. Most mobile devices can be locked with a screen lockpassword or personal identification number (PIN), but these measures are typically turned off by default.

By requiring authentication before a mobile device can be accessed, the data on the device is protected in case of accidental loss or theft of the mobile device. Ensure the use of a powerful password in order to make it more difficult for a potential thief to access the device.

2. Update Your Mobile OS with Security Patches

Keep the mobile operating system and its apps up to date. Mobile operating systems like Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android platform and Microsoft’s Windows Phone provide regular updates to users that resolve security vulnerabilities and other mobile security threats, as well as provide additional security and performance options and features to users. These upgrades aren’t always updated automatically, so mobile devices users may need to turn on automatic updates or update their phones and apps manually on a regular basis.

3. Regularly Back Up Your Mobile Device

Ensure the mobile device’s data is regularly backed up. By backing up a device to another hard drive or to the cloud, the data can be restored in the event the device gets damaged or is lost or stolen. A backup utility or app that runs automatically on a specified schedule is recommended for keeping the backed-up data as current as possible.

4. Utilize Encryption

Utilize encryption for data stored on the phone as well as for data in transit with secure technologies such as VPN. It’s also a mobile security best practice to never transmit sensitive or personal information over a public Wi-Fi spot, especially one that is unsecured, without using a secure transmission option like VPN.

5. Enable Remote Data Wipe as an Option

Ensure a remote data wipe option is available on the device and that users know how to utilize it in case the device is stolen or lost. Apple’s Find My iPhone app, for example, offers a remote data wiping option in addition to the ability to find the iPhone if it’s lost.

6. Disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth When Not Needed

Limit the potential for access by hackers through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth by disabling these connectivity options when not needed.

7. Don’t Fall for Phishing Schemes

Avoid potential phishing schemes and malware threats by avoiding clicking on links or opening e-mail attachments from untrusted sources, as they may be from a fraudulent source masquerading as a friend or legitimate company.

8. Avoid All Jailbreaks

Ensure that the phone remains locked down as opposed to being jailbroken. While jailbreaking a smartphone can enable the user to run unverified or unsupported apps, many of these apps carry security vulnerabilities. In fact, the majority of security exploits for Apple’s iOS only affect jailbroken iPhones.

9. Add a Mobile Security App

Research and select a reputable mobile security app that extends the built-in security features of the device’s mobile operating system. Well-known third-party security vendors such as Lookout, Avast, Kaspersky, Symantec and Qihu offer mobile security apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

10. Communicate Your Mobile Security Best Practices

In enterprise and small business environments, it’s vital for IT staff to ensure the company’s policies and mobile security best practices are clearly communicated to employees so that they are aware of what to do and what not to do in terms of protecting the security of their mobile devices and their data. In addition to explaining best practices, this communication should also include which apps, BYOD  and BYOC solutions are permitted in the work environment and which aren’t allowed for use.