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We cannot overstate how central smartphones have become to people’s lives. These supercomputers are used to keep in touch with family and friends, book travel, do our banking, pay our bills, hail our transportation, just to name the most basic activities. However, these activities also involve vast amounts of, very often, very personal data. 

With the increase of smartphone use, mobile device security threats are also on the rise. In fact, the number of threats your phone encounters on a regular basis is steadily increasing every year, since more and more people own mobile devices.  According to GSMA real-time intelligence data, currently, approximately 5.27 Billion individuals in the world own a mobile device. This means that a staggering 67.03% of the world's population has and uses mobile devices. With such a high number of global users, it’s no surprise that hidden security threats are lurking inside your faithful smartphone. [1]

Here are the top mobile security threats smartphone users face: 

1. Out of Date Operating Systems 

We’re all guilty of it – your smartphone interrupts your screen time in order to let you know the operating system is out of date, asking you to download it, install it and restart your device. Since many of us are constantly glued to our smartphones, it’s never a convenient time. Therefore, we click through and plan on doing it later. That’s if we remember. However, having out-of-date operating system software in your mobile phone is putting you and your device at risk. More importantly, if you use your smartphone for work purposes, an out-of-date operating system could also compromise your company’s corporate data. There’s a good reason why our devices are so insistent we update our operating systems. Next time your phone reminds you of it’s time to update the operating system, don’t put it off. Schedule it as soon as you can. 

2. Unsecured WiFi 

No one wants to waste their expensive mobile data plan when wireless hotspots are freely available everywhere you look. However, free Wi-Fi networks tend to be unsecured.  Network-based threats are especially common and risky because cybercriminals can steal unencrypted data while you use public, unsecured WiFi networks.

To stay safe, try to limit your use of free Wi-Fi on any mobile device. Most importantly, never use it to access confidential or personal services, such as banking or credit card information.

3. Poor Password Habits 

You'd think we'd be past this point by now, but somehow, users still aren't securing their digital accounts properly. When they're carrying phones that contain both company accounts and personal sign-ins, that can be particularly problematic. Poor password habits help hackers to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. THis can lead to your privacy being compromised and your personal data can end up in the wrong hands.  

4. Data Leaks 

A mobile data leak involves the public exposure of the unauthorized or unintentional transfer of private, personal or sensitive information from a mobile device. If an app or the app developer fails to properly protect the users’ data, it can essentially make data, including potentially very sensitive personal or private data,  available to anyone who utilizes the same network as the mobile device.   

5. Browser Exploits 

A browser exploit is basically a form of malicious code which takes advantage of a vulnerability or flaw in your operating system. The intent is to breach your browser security and to alter your browser settings without your knowledge or permission. In your smartphone, this involves your mobile browser. Browser exploits can also work against other applications that use your browser to function properly, such as PDF readers. If you notice that your mobile browser’s homepage or search page has unexpectedly changed, it could be a sign that you’re a victim of a browser exploit.

6. Dead Apps

Dead apps are apps which were once available on major app stores such as iTunes and Google, but have been removed, for whatever reason,  and are, therefore, no longer supported.  Although those apps still work on mobile devices, since they are unsupported, they are not secure. This also means that they are no longer the responsibility of Google, Apple or even the app creators, who originally created and maintained the app. As a result the security vulnerabilities which were never corrected or may have been the reason for the removal of the app from the app store, could compromise your personal information. 

7. Malware/Spyware/Madware 

We all know about malware and spyware. Mobile malware is a malicious software which specifically targets the operating systems on mobile phones causing the collapse of the system and resulting in the loss or leakage of confidential information. Spyware, on the other hand, collects data about you based on your internet usage and transmits it to a third party. But what about madware? Madware is short for mobile adware. Madware is essentially a script or a program installed on your phone, quite often without your consent. Its job is to collect your data for the purpose of better targeting you with ads. On top of that, madware often comes attached at the hip with spyware. 

8. Phishing & Grayware apps

Since mobile devices are usually always on, they are prime targets of many phishing attacks. Phishing is a type of social engineering attack which involves a fraudulent, often spoofed, message or an email designed to trick you, the user, into revealing sensitive, personal information to the cybercriminal or to deploy malicious software on the victim's device. Grayware refers to unwanted software and apps which, although they aren't necessarily malicious themselves, can cause performance issues and expose the user to security breaches. They often involve pop-up ads or site redirects. Furthermore, grayware might create a situation where your device becomes vulnerable to more severe types of malware, including viruses and Trojan horses. 

9. SMiShing 

When cybercriminals "phish," they send fraudulent emails, however, when they SMiSh, they send fraudulent texts.  Smishing just uses text messages instead of an email. To put it simply, smishing is any kind of phishing that involves a cybersecurity attack carried out over a mobile phone network and involves a text message. As a variant of phishing, victims are deceived into giving sensitive information to a disguised attacker.

10. Internet of Things (IoT) Devices 

The global market for Internet of things (IoT) devices reached $761.4 billion in  2020.  Forecasts suggest that this figure will grow to around $1.4 trillion by 2026. Although all these connected devices are creating great experiences  and convenience for consumers, they also represent brand new targets for hackers. The ubiquity of the internet, the growing capacity of network connections, and the diversity of connected devices make the IoT an attractive target for cybercriminals who may use them as entry points to the larger network. The more connected devices there are, the more entry points exist. [2]

How to secure your device and protect your privacy 

Mobile device security concerns are not only increasing in number, but they are also evolving in scope. To protect your devices and sensitive data, as a user, in addition to being aware of the threats, you should also know how to safeguard your data and protect your privacy. This may not always be easy. Keeping your software updated and using strong passwords seem simple, but they are key to safeguarding your information. 

We live in a world that’s constantly connected and most of us can’t imagine our lives without a smartphone. Perhaps the option of minimizing our exposure by switching to a phone without internet capabilities, such as the Mudita Pure could solve many lurking mobile security threats. 

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