October may be known for Halloween and the spooky characters that come out to play, but many people may not realize that this month is also National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM). Hosted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), NCSAM aims to educate and inform people about how they can proactively guard their online information from cyber threats. Celebrating its 10th year, NCSA introduced a full week devoted to programs that build awareness around mobile safety and security. Mobile technology now allows us to take the convenience and productivity of the Internet everywhere we go, in order to stay connected when traveling, shopping, banking, and much more. However, this newfound freedom comes with a price—there are an estimated 556 million victims of cybercrime each year and counting. Mobile crime is on the rise, and security awareness among users needs to keep up. Getting your mobile device hacked or identity stolen is pretty creepy any time of the year, and it’s more common than ever in today’s digital world.
Since their debut in the early 2000s, smartphones have skyrocketed in popularity. As our interest and demand in smartphones has increased, companies have been quick to respond by releasing a constant stream of new phones with exciting features. We recently saw Apple invest in fingerprint technology for its iPhone 5s and other major companies aren’t far behind, debuting higher resolution cameras, sleeker interfaces, and larger screens. Keeping these advances in mind, it’s understandable why we’ve become so tethered to our mobile devices—convenience. Whether we’re looking for directions to a business meeting, checking out the menu for a new restaurant, or just playing Candy Crush, everything is now literally at our fingertips.
However, just as mobile devices have made our lives more convenient, they have also made it far easier for cybercriminals to get ahold of our personal data. If you’re connecting wherever and whenever, cybercriminals have more opportunities to get into your device. For example, according to the McAfee Threats Report: Second Quarter 2013, more than 30,000 new mobile malware threats have been discovered in the first half of this year alone, that’s just shy of the entirety of 2012. It is proving to be a record year for mobile malware. One of the biggest problems in mobile security today is user awareness and the lack of knowledge around appropriate device protection measures. More than 30% of people don’t password protect their mobile devices. And of those that do, 55% admit to having shared their PIN with others, including their children. It’s easy for hackers and cybercriminals to be able to take advantage of this lax security, so smartphone users must be smart about how they use their devices.
NCSAM is all about teaching all of us on how to proactively stay safe online. That is why they added mobile security to this year’s event, to help educate users that the same safeguards we use on our desktops and laptops should be applied to mobile devices. Below are some top safety and security tips that are good to practice across the board on mobile devices:
- Update your mobile software. Make sure you are using the latest versions of your operating system, browser, and security software. Updates usually contain additional protection against viruses or malware.
- Secure your device with a strong passcode. You should be the only who knows the passcode to your smartphone. Also make sure to steer clear of easy options such as 1234 or your birth year.
- Review app permissions before you download. Third-party apps, especially games or entertainment apps, should have limited access to personal data such as location or social networking sites.
- Limit your usage while connected to public Wi-Fi. Never bank or online shop while using the Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop. These kinds of transactions should be reserved for secure and private connections.
- If something sounds suspicious, don’t respond. Just like regular web browsing, mobile scams are on the rise. Be wary of fraudulent calls, texts or voicemails that ask for personal information or immediate action.
- Go the extra mile when it comes to mobile security. Sometimes taking all the precautions you can is just not enough. McAfee® Mobile Security comes with many features to help protect your Android smartphone and tablet from a variety of threats, including location tracking and remote lock and wipe functions should your device become lost or stolen, and virus protection with continuous scanning and monitoring of your mobile activity.