Hackers are getting more sophisticated in their approaches and companies need to be aware of the most dangerous mobile security threats facing them.
During the 2000s, it seemed like only those in suits at the top of the business chain were equipped with Blackberries and other early smartphone technologies. Fast forward 20 years and nearly every American is armed with a smartphone — which makes us all vulnerable to mobile security threats.
With this massive jump in smartphone ownership comes a drastic increase in risk for companies whose employees can access their data from those phones at any time. In 2011 35% of Americans owned a smartphone. That number increased to 81% in 2020, according to a report by Pew.
Companies big and small need to be concerned about mobile security, now more than ever. Not only does nearly every American carry a smartphone, but hackers are becoming more advanced in their methods of extracting data.
Companies are facing more mobile security threats than they ever have before. Breaches of sensitive information are also becoming increasingly expensive. According to an IBM study, the average cost of a corporate data breach was $3.86 million in 2020. According to the same IBM report, analysts expect the cost of data breaches worldwide to grow to $6 trillion in 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015.
These numbers may be less meaningful to us, the end-user. But those costs inevitably get passed on to us in the form of higher prices. And so we all must do what we can to protect ourselves from pressing mobile security threats.
These are eight of the most dangerous mobile security threats that you should take seriously. Awareness is the first stage of protection, after all!
The top mobile security threats
1. Leaked data
The first of the most dangerous mobile security threats is leaked data. The danger here comes from multiple places and isn’t always apparent to users. One of the dangers for companies is employees granting access to their data to apps by simply agreeing to a shady set of terms and conditions.
Another possible weak point is human error. Maybe one of your employees accidentally forwards an email to the wrong address or transfers files to a public cloud storage database.
The risk comes back to employees walking around with the company’s data at the tips of their fingers via smartphones.
Employers should implement a policy for downloading apps on phones where their data is accessible to employees and ensure that employees are not downloading apps that may be risky. Employers can implement mobile app scanning software to detect malware or leaky apps before they put data at risk.
2. Wi-Fi hacks
Public wifi can be a significant danger to anyone who decides to connect to it. Keeping yourself and your private data safe while using public Wi-Fi is a must.
One of the biggest dangers with public Wi-Fi is how common it has become. Nearly everywhere you go these days, there are a multitude of free public Wi-Fi options.
The most common form of data leaks via public Wi-Fi is known as a man-in-the-middle attack. In this attack, someone puts themselves in the middle of your communication with that router and intercepts everything passing between you and the router. This type of hack can be dangerous if you are using your credit card number, bank account or sharing company documents.
To stay safe, here’s how to keep your information safe on public Wi-Fi so you don’t invite hackers through the front door!
3. Social engineering
You have probably heard of phishing attacks, which target unsuspecting users to click nefarious links or enter their account information to hackers who are mimicking real businesses. This is a form of social engineering and is a severe risk on mobile devices as well.
According to a Lookout report on phishing, there was a 37% increase worldwide in mobile phishing attacks between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020. That is a massive jump in the number of attacks.
“The financial risk of falling victim to a phishing attack can be devastating to an organization. For a large multinational company, they could be looking at hundreds of millions of dollars in losses from a successful phishing attack,” the Lookout 2020 report states.
Those attacks are coming through various mediums, including mobile apps, SMS, social media and messaging apps.
Follow our steps on how to avoid phishing scams.
4. Older devices
Outdated devices are an easy target for hackers and because nearly everything in the world is connected, the risk grows each year as devices grow more and more out of date. Users should always keep their devices updated and be sure not to forget their apps.
Another risk is devices connected to the Internet of Things, which typically don’t allow for software updates. These devices, also known as smart devices, can be an easy way in for hackers.
5. Weak passwords
This mobile secuirty threat should be an obvious one for anyone taking the time to research mobile security threats, but it is probably the most important on our list. A password is the number one line of defense between your private data, your company’s data and someone who wants to get ahold of all of it.
It should go without saying that you need to make solid and complex passwords, but most importantly, you should have individual passwords for every separate login. The reason for this is that if you use a single password, however, complex it may be, and that password is leaked via a data breach, hackers could access not only that account but every other account you use the same password for.
We recommend a password manager that keeps your logins and passwords organized across all devices. Most password managers have password generators that create strong passwords automatically and remember them for you. Check out our list of the best password management apps to help you choose the right one for you!
Bitcoin has hit a record high this year and topped off at more than $61,000 per coin at one point in early 2021. The idea that cryptocurrencies were a flash in the pan seems to have passed and the currencies are gaining more and more legitimacy by financial institutions.
So how does this relate to mobile devices? Well, hackers have begun gaining access to people’s devices and using their computer processing power to mine for cryptocurrencies. This drains phone batteries and slows down the devices as the mining operations max out devices’ processing power, including mobile devices.
In 2020, cryptojacking increased by 163% in the second quarter, according to a report by Wickr on the security of cryptocurrency. To avoid becoming a crypto mining tool for a stranger, be very careful which apps you download!
7. Fraud from mobile ads
Mobile ads are a valuable target for hackers looking to capitalize by taking advantage of many advertising clients’ pay-per-click systems.
Hackers who do this use malware place on an unsuspecting device to generate clicks on those ads. Hackers usually gain access to these devices via fraudulent apps that install malware. This can slow down a user’s phone significantly.
The takeaway? Be careful which free apps you download. App developers have to make money somehow – and free apps are ad-supported. Most apps won’t verify the validity of those advertisers, leaving you open to clicking malware.
8. Device breaches
This is an obvious one and one of the most dangerous due to a theif’s ability to access everything in one place. We are talking about the physical theft of a device, particularly a smartphone.
This can be a significant risk for companies who give out company devices or allow their employees to access sensitive data via their smartphones.
Stolen or lost devices are an even more considerable risk when they don’t have a strong password or PIN. Companies should ensure they provide training and policies around encryption and proper password and security measures to ensure any stolen device doesn’t end up leaking all of its data.
Keep tabs on your device — and report it stolen as quickly as possible in the event of theft! This allows your company and others to lock it down and prevent unauthorized access.