In the wrong hands, your gadgets could cost you big time

THE trend to go mobile hasn’t escaped the attention of the bad guys. They’re focusing more than ever on portable mobile devices as people shift from computers to hand-held gadgets.

We tend to leave a lot of sensitive & sometimes personal information lying around on our gadgets. Worse yet, we tend to stay logged in to many services. Imagine the havoc someone could wreak with access to your phone, email, calendar, financial records, online shopping, online banking, social networking and other services. Keep in mind that if it’s a business phone, you’re putting your organisation’s security at risk as well as your own.

Sophos head of technology for Asia Pacific, Paul Ducklin, warns it’s important to password-protect all your devices, particularly those that leave the house.

”In a recent Sophos survey, nearly one-quarter of people admitted they’d lost a device in the past year,” Ducklin says. ”But of those, close to three-quarters hadn’t even bothered to lock their device at all.

”Their excuse is often that it’s inconvenient to unlock it every time – but that’s surely not as inconvenient as trying to reclaim your digital life after someone gets their hands on your unlocked phone.”

Installing mobile security software in your gadgets can offer the ability to track, remotely lock and even wipe your devices, adds Symantec spokesman David Hall. It’s a sensible precaution to stop your data falling into the wrong hands should a gadget be stolen or lost. Regularly backing up your smartphone to a desktop computer or an online service makes it easy to transfer your data to a replacement handset, while the lost device is reverted to its factory settings.

Smartphone owners should take great care when installing applications, Hall warns, as some have been modified to snoop around in your phone & cause you grief.

”The current trend is towards ‘Trojanised’ applications, with the majority targeting the Android platform,” Hall says. ”These are legitimate apps that scamming authors have altered to include malicious code capable of harvesting data or opening a back door. In many instances, such apps still carry out their legitimate functions as a way of disguising their malicious behaviour.”

”You should always check permissions requests before installing new apps or app upgrades, to see what the app is allowed to do. It’s also important to check your phone bill regularly for unusual premium-rate calls or data charges, which can be a sign that something is wrong.”

Apple’s tight rules for vetting apps frustrate some users but it helps create a safer mobile computing environment for iGadgets.

Google’s more lax approach offers users and developers more freedom but leaves the door open for malicious applications. Google has already been forced to pull dozens of malicious mobile applications from the Android Market app store.

Android also allows users to install applications from sources other than Google’s official Android Market – presenting extra security threats. Microsoft has vowed to strike a balance between the two approaches with its Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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