Mobile devices do it all: games, calls, web browsing, even video conferencing. The problem is, all that PC-like power comes with PC-like vulnerability, and with all that information there for the taking, how can bad guys resist the temptation?
E-thieves are literally banking on people having poor mobile security, and your first defense is strong malware protection. But you'll need more than that in the battle against e-jerks; you'll need knowledge, too.
Inquiring minds want to know the best ways to stay protected while on the go, and we’ve got your answers to seven common mobile security questions.
1. How do I know if an app is safe?
Tales of rogue apps hijacking phones and blasting out hundreds of premium rate text messages pop up almost daily. How do you avoid getting bit and becoming part of the zombie phone horde? It's not too hard, actually:
- Download apps from official app stores like Apple's cleverly named App Store or Google's Play Store only. The vast majority of rogue apps are lurking on unofficial app stores or websites.
- Read the user reviews. Everyday folks tend to scream at the top of their lungs when they get pwned by a rogue app.
- Check out the developer. Rovio makes Angry Birds Space; if you're downloading the game from OMGhahaPWNDu, you're probably going to regret it.
- Install a mobile security app. A good security app is like a good buddy at the bar; it has your back even when you stumble and helps you decide between bad choices (no, not her) and good choices (one more round…then taxi time!)
2. So if an app is safe I don't have to worry about it anymore, right?
Ummm, not quite. Most free apps stay free by displaying messages from third-party ad networks. Researchers have found that since the ad code comes from remote servers, it could contain all kinds of bad things, including "root" apps that can snatch complete control of your phone.
Fortunately, if you've been taking notes and installed a mobile security app as we suggested, the automatic malware and anti-virus protection should stop rogue code in its tracks.
3. Is it safe to check my bank account on my phone?
We're going to swipe a line from The Simpsons' Reverend Lovejoy and go with "Short answer, 'Yes with an if,’ long answer, 'No with a but.’" The good news: We've already covered "Yes, with an if," in-depth. Basically, you're pretty safe if you play it smart and have some antispyware and malware protection in place.
4. Does my smartphone need anti-virus protection?
5. Is every internet connection safe?
No! Your cellular carrier's 3G or 4G network should be relatively secure, but Wi-Fi hotspots can be a hacking honeypot. Baddies on the same Wi-Fi network as you can grab any data you send right out of the air, and that's no joke: The FDIC has already encountered cases where cyberpunks swiped banking login information from people using Wi-Fi.
Not even mobile security apps can protect against that. Seriously: Don't mess around with anything sensitive if you're not on 3G, 4G or a trusted, secure Wi-Fi network.
6. Do I really need a password lock on my phone?
Alternative question: "Can't I harass my Facebook friends two seconds sooner if I disabled the screen lock password? Time is money blah blah blah." You're right! But even though ditching password protection lets you satisfy your Fruit Ninja addiction a split-second faster, it lets anybody who picks your phone up off the bar get to your goods just as quickly.
Slap a password on your phone unless you want Creepy Stalker Guy sifting through your contacts and scribbling down your friends' intimate details. It's on you if he calls your Mom and starts mouth breathing into the phone.
7. Am I screwed if my mobile device gets stolen?
The doomsday scenario has occurred: Your phone has been pilfered! It should take the thieves a while to figure out your screen lock password. (You did password protect your phone, right?) Once they're in, though, all your juicy data belongs to them….
UNLESS you're able to either physically locate your device or remotely wipe the information while the thief is still punching in random number combinations to unlock screen, that is. Webroot's Mobile Security & AntiVirus lets you track down your device using GPS, lock it down or scrub your data completely from anywhere there's an internet connection.
Seven common mobile security questions, seven solutions. Go. Be Mobile.