The Negative Effects that Mobile Devices Pose to Cyber Security
The popularity of mobile devices is not a secret across the world for both personal and enterprise use. As mobile devices continue in their advancement path, including features that allow people to not only communicate with their friends and families, but also work from these devices, there are real fears over the threat that these devices have on cyber security. Smartphones, tablets, and PDAs allow users to access their mail, internet, and navigation systems, as well as other applications (Ruggiero & Foote, 2011). On the contrary, however, the security of these devices has not been updated, as is the case of traditional computer security. Even more worrying is that security features such as firewalls, encryption, and antivirus protection are largely absent in mobile devices, in addition to the irregularity of operating system updates for these mobile devices (Ruggiero & Foote, 2011). This, in many ways, poses cyber security threats through the mobile devices.
Most of the users of mobile devices use these devices to access personal data and corporate data, as well as social networks. Sad, however, is the fact that most of the social networking applications available for mobile devices are often deficient of detailed privacy controls, as in the case of the personal computer features (Ruggiero & Foote, 2011). Even more is that many of the mobile device users are oblivious of the security shortcomings; many do not enable the security software and feature on their mobile devices, and believe on the security of browsing the internet through their mobile devices. This is however a fallacy, as mobile devices without the security features and software enabled are as vulnerable to attacks as computers without such features in place. Even more is that once attacked, hackers can use the very mobile devices to launch further attacks on other unsuspecting users, both on their mobile devices and on the PCs (Ruggiero & Foote, 2011).
Following cyber threats and mobile gadgets’ theft, a few users have begun using security aspects on their gadgets. However, these individuals use passcodes or PINs easily deciphered or circumvented (Cooney, 2012). The loss or theft of such devices with weak security features therefore means that information on the devices is easily accessible by unauthorized users. Moreover, these users can also misuse the mobile devices, putting the original owner in collision with law enforcement agencies (Cooney, 2012). Additionally, the users’ passwords and PINs, which they use to access and conduct online transactions are usually static passwords, most of which can be either guessed, noted down and stolen, forgotten, or eavesdropped by hackers. Thus, without the secure two-factor authentication, mobile devices pose cyber security risks for unauthorized access to sensitive information and mobile devices’ abuse.
The portability of mobile devices makes them an even easier target for hackers and thieves. The two (hackers and thieves) can easily steal an individual’s mobile device. Once stolen, the owner loses information stored on the mobile device, some of which may include personal information, business data as well as financial records (Ruggiero & Foote, 2011).
Moreover, even with security features in place, a hacker with sufficient knowledge and time can easily bypass the mobile device’s security features and gain access to information stored on the mobile device.
One the current trends in most corporate circles is allowing employees to work with their own devices. Known as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), the trend is catching up in most corporates circles as companies look into cost cutting measures, especially on purchase and update of hardware and software for the firms. These devices usually connect to the companies’ networks to allow swift working of the employees in their daily routines (Saxena&Ponnapali, 2014). The risk posed here is that of data leakage from these devices, as well as from the network, as without comprehensive security features on the mobile devices, hacker can easily access the corporate network through the mobile devices.
Further, with each of the employees bringing their own devices, companies have a daunting task in the enforcement of uniform security policies on such a wide variety of devices (Saxena&Ponnapali, 2014). Further complications arrive for companies that may want to isolate corporate from personal data as a measure against data leaks, in addition to the management of sensitive data in cases of stolen or lost devices.
Relatedly, most wireless transmissions from and to mobile devices are rarely encrypted. E-mails from these devices, besidesthe applications, rarely encode data transmitted over the devices’ network. This makes it easy for interception of the data (Cooney, 2012). Moreover, some of the mobile devices have hotspot features, which allow them to share their network with other devices. Without encryption, not only can other users use the network, but also the transmissions over the unsecure network can be easily intercepted (Cooney, 2012). Malicious people can also use the network to launch cyber-attacks with no trace to themselves, making the unsuspecting user the subject of an investigation.
Many seemingly authentic applications may indeed be malicious malware (Ruggiero & Foote, 2011). Users can therefore download these applications on the pretext of receiving a security patch, game or utility application (Cooney, 2012).
A user may therefore download the application with no knowledge of what the application does or if it works, what it does in the background. Moreover, it is difficult for users to distinguish between legitimate and malicious software just by looking. Even more is that any user can develop an application for the mobile device platforms and post them for downloading without the careful scrutiny and evaluation of mobile service providers or the platform manufacturer (Ruggiero & Foote, 2011). These applications may easily access locked device capabilities, in addition to eavesdropping on the communication between mobile devices. Additionally, many users jailbreak theirdevices to install some applications, therefore bypassing security features in the operating
system, making them vulnerable to attacks.
Like PCs, mobile devices’ software has vulnerabilities, which hackers can easily exploit (Ruggiero & Foote, 2011). By clicking on links sent from seemingly genuine people or firms on offers or discounts, mobile devices users can trigger an attack or exploration of weakness on the applications, such as a web browser, on the mobile device. As aforementioned, this can be a platform for attacks to other mobile devices and PCs.
Mobile devices, while popular, pose great cyber security risks. The weaknesses in the operating systems and applications are enough to launch cyber-attacks. It is however important to note that these mobile devices also have security features to prevent attacks. Today, some of the gadgets have fingerprint scanners, which enhance the security of these devices. Even with the presence of such security features, many users choose not to use them, increasing the threats posed by the devices. The necessity of using the security features as a means of mitigating the threats is therefore important for sensitive mobile devices users.
Cooney, M. (2012).On mobile security problems to attack.PC World. Retrieved from http://www.pcworld.com/article/2010278/10-common-mobile-security-problems-to-attack.html
P. & Foote, J. (2011).Cyber Threats
to Mobile Phones. Carnegie Mellon University
A. &Ponnapali, H., K., B. (2014).Cyber
Security Threats: Preparations Required by Enterprises. Bangalore: Infosys
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