Are our mobile devices secure?


Written by Don't Panic
09 Thursday 09th March 2017

Although the tech that drives mobile phones has progressed rapidly over the past few years, there are still security risks involved in sharing information using them. As individuals we’re entrusting more and more data to these little devices in our hands, and when this gets transferred, any opportunity for individuals to intercept this data is available to steal all we are. In an age when many bank using their phones, this can include financial as well as personal information and while we like to believe we are secure, this is not really the case.

The growth of personal computers had a similar trend of growth, and the introduction of the internet was a huge shock to many people, where anti-virus was slow to be picked up, but is now synonymous with computer security. This was followed by firewalls. Computer security is a constant evolutionary arms race, with those who wish to do us harm finding back-doors, and new ways of getting into the back-end of our systems, our bank accounts, and our other personal data. Similarly to how mac users would feel immune to viruses due to a reduced amount of malware aimed at that software, mobile phone users have also been slow to take up anti-virus, believing that viruses and malware simply won’t affect them.  Initial services were also slow to be created, but firms are now combining multiple services and multi-device products.

The need to protect our data grows ever higher. Far from being a useful tool to check bus times, quick internet page checks, and storing our contacts, phones are now becoming our lives. Combining many organisational tools together, phones are now our photo albums, our social networks through Facebook, our banks, our e-mails, and our credit cards with introductions of apple pay, and android pay. If we lose the information on our phones, it’s no longer a minor frustration, but a major data breach, and a huge risk for identity theft.  While some features are being included to help keep that data secure, such as track my mobile apps, phone locks, location services that help keep you aware of a phone’s location, and fingerprint capabilities, hackers are still looking for ways to get past these security measures. And these skills are getting very good, and phishing schemes are looking very realistic. Using official logos, and creating faux pages that look realistic are ways of getting around several of the security measures phone producers are putting in place.

Although this all sounds like a very frightening prospect, there are ways and means of protecting this data – with the Virtual Private Network (VPN) being perhaps the most common example. Only those who have the necessary password can get into this network, allowing for information to be exchanged in a far more secure manner than would be possible via an open Wi-Fi network. These types of networks have grown steadily over recent years, for both business purposes, and also for private individuals either looking to watch another country’s Netflix, avoid geo-blocks or to release protest information without fear of being detected, but while this has been mostly on computers and laptops, the nature of our internet exploring has changed.

With the increased commercial aspect of phones as an internet browsing device, there’s been increased impetus on mobile security. VPNs are also available for going mobile. It is a good way of being able to use a mobile for work without worrying about compromising security. The Android OS offers the ability to add a VPN to your device, with multiple companies offering an available services.

External VPN apps like StrongVPN and TunnelBear are easy to get and offer excellent security. It is not just for work purposes that a phone VPN is useful, as it can also be used to get onto websites that have restricted access based on location. While this is good for work, it can also be helpful if you are browsing for leisure purposes. From a security perspective, one thing to bear in mind is that some VPN providers log user data, so you should be sure what your provider’s stance on this is, as well as being aware that not all VPNs offer the same level of security. A PTPT is less secure than either an OpenVPN or an SSL, but is also the type that has the widest platform support – being supported by all major operating systems. You will need to decide which of these is most important to you when selecting a VPN.


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