CNN Money made a valid point in their recent article when they said that the smartphone is quickly becoming one of your most dangerous possessions. Because of services that make our lives easier, like online mobile banking and online shopping via your phone’s web browser, your smartphone has surpassed your wallet as the main target for pickpocketers and thieves.
The reason it’s dangerous is sort of two-fold: For starters, there’s a lot of easily accessible information on your smartphone—email accounts (sometimes several), social networking profiles, contact lists, important (and sometimes private) notes that you might have taken, and more. Second, the transactions that we make on our smartphones have doubled them as pocket-sized laptops. Everything from transferring money, to paying bills, to online shopping puts our private information at risk. The convenience factor has gotten so ridiculous that now you can take a picture of a check with your smartphone as a way to deposit it into your account!
As CNN Money points out, security attacks on smartphones climbed to an all-time high in 2010, […]. Specifically, attacks on Google’s Android smartphones quadrupled, and smartphones running Java-based applications jumped 45%.
It was also pointed out that when it comes to online banking from your smartphone, it’s a bit safer to use the app created for that specific bank as hackers and identity thieves are creating fake (but very similar) web domains for those who use the non-mobile version of a bank site, ex. www.bankfoamerica.com versus www.bankofamerica.com. The username and password you enter into the former is automatically sent to the hacker’s server. And though this is probably a less common instance of smartphone hacking, it’s still something to think about if you bank through your phone often.
When it comes to the content that doesn’t need to be hacked, traced, or necessarily stolen; your smartphone can act as a portal to your social networking profiles and email, which, for most people, harness a lot of personal information. And even if you’re smart enough not to do this, you’re still in for it as the thief can easily wreak havoc with your friends or business contacts.
Pulling from the CNN Money article, if you make a lot of transactions on your phone or store a lot of private information on your accounts, it’s probably worth investing in an anti-virus/identity theft protection program with your bank or carrier service. Though it’s a good first-line-of-defense, most people rely too heavily on the fact that their smartphone is password protected. The fact of the matter is these passwords can easily be broken by experienced thieves, or anyone who knows where to look.
In the end, do yourself a favor and get in the habit of doing the simple things, like logging out of your accounts regardless of where or how you access them, declining any option to save a username or password, and setting security passwords wherever given the option to. Also, try to refrain from making heavy bank transactions on your smartphones. It’ll probably never be 100% safe to do this kind of thing, so we probably shouldn’t get used to it.