How to Keep Your Mobile Device Secure
Your PC is most likely well stocked with anti-virus software and an active firewall. But chances are your mobile device is still vulnerable and ripe for hacking.
In fact, some devices are more vulnerable than others. When it comes to mobile devices, the bottom line is that they are consumer devices, whether or not people use them for business.
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Security is not one of the primary concerns for developers of mobile operating systems, said Eric Green, senior vice president of Mobile Active Defense in Atlanta.
"I think that the first and foremost thing has to be vigilance," Green said. "Understanding that as you would with a PC, [you should be] looking for phishing attacks, looking for emails that you shouldn't be opening, not going to websites that you know you shouldn't be going to."
Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod touch are among the most secure mobile devices because iOS is a closed operating system, said Robert Siciliano, a Boston-based personal-security expert.
"That means Apple didn't open up the operating system to developers, other than to create applications," Siciliano said. "It's a pretty closed loop, and that means that bad guys can't see the original code that lets criminals exploit it."
To keep an iOS device secure, you should install Apple's updates as soon as they become available, Siciliano said.
Green said iOS is more secure than other platforms because it doesn't allow multitasking, which means it lets more than one program run operations at the same time.
"There are a number of reasons for that," he said. "The first reason is because multitasking isn't currently enabled on the iOS.
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"Think of your typical exploit and what it does," Green said. "The way people trade information is that there is some sort of code in the background."
No multitasking is "a great security measure," Green added,"because if someone does somehow get malware on the device, the keystroke logger can't log keystrokes, because it can't be on while you're doing other stuff."
However, hackers can steal information from an iOS device that's been jailbroken to allow installation of software not authorized by Apple.
"By jailbreaking, you're breaking access control, and you're letting programs multitask," Green said.
The BlackBerry OS is also a very secure system, but as with iOS, you should ensure you keep it updated, Siciliano said.
"BlackBerry remains one of the more secure devices out there," Green said. "However, the company has had to alter certain things to meet the expectations of the public, who need to be able to control iOS and Android in the enterprise.
"From what I understand, they may have lessened some of their controls and security from what was traditional BlackBerry to be able to do the next generation of stuff," Green added.
"But that's more for the transport layer," he continues. "For the general consumer, it really doesn't make a bit of difference, and it's really more secure than the other devices. Certainly, the virus writers aren't writing a ton of exploits for the BlackBerry."
Android is the most vulnerable mobile OS, and the one likely to have the most security problems, Siciliano said.
"Android is an open operating system, which means Google, the creator of the OS, made it open so anybody could create applications — and that allows bad guys to see the code," he said. "With Android, you need mobile security — you need the same security that would be necessary on a PC."
So if you have an Android device, be sure to install an anti-virus product, Siciliano said.
"All your mobile security products will provide you with all the necessary tools" to keep it secure, Siciliano said, "whether that means anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-phishing, and/or firewall built into their products."
Green said most of the mobile anti-virus products out there are geared toward the Android operating system.
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"The problem is that with most of the anti-virus products for Android, the user has to go turn it on and scan the system," he said.
"But when you turn it on, it's extremely invasive, and it slows down the device, and I guarantee you that any user turns the scan off more than they turn it on," Green said. "I think the anti-virus piece of it is suspect as a way to control these devices, generally speaking."
Green said that right now, all eyes are on the Windows 8 operating system, which is available on high-end Surface tablets and also has a tablet-only variant called Windows RT. (Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 are different from the desktop operating systems.)
"The operating system is far better than Windows 7, which took a step backward in terms of security," Green said. "So Windows 8 mobile is a bit more secure, but it is still Windows.
"The good news, I guess, is that you can have traditional anti-virus from vendors like Sophos and McAfee" on Windows 8, Green said. "And Windows does a good job of being able to run that stuff in the background, although I can't say how it affects the speed and usage of the mobile device."
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