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Outsmart Smartphone Hackers



June 1, 2009 Back to Article

Summary

What is a smartphone? And what are the risks associated with them? Smartphones are just as vulnerable to hackers as computers are. Learn about the various risks and how to keep your smartphone protected.
Let’s start with the basics. What is a smartphone? The term means different things to different people, but for our purposes, it’s any mobile phone that can browse the web, send and receive emails and text messages, and can use applications from third-party vendors. Most also offer WiFi Internet connection. If your mobile phone can do those things, it’s a smartphone.

The Opportunity for Hackers

Smartphones are big business. The Wall Street Journal estimates that almost 160 million smartphones were sold last year, surpassing the number of laptop PCs sold in the same period. That’s a huge opportunity for those who make smartphones or sell service. And it’s a huge target for those who would hack your smartphone.

Hackers At Work

Essentially, a smartphone is a connected PC that fits in your pocket. So it’s not surprising that smartphone hackers use the same basic tactics that they use to extract information from PCs –
  • Snoopware – originally marketed as a way for parents to monitor their kids’ mobile phone usage, snoopware can be used to eavesdrop on your conversations, emails, text messages contact lists, and passwords. If you use a smartphone to make financial transactions, snoopware can be programmed to eavesdrop on those too.
  • Smiphishing – This is like email phishing on a PC, except that it sends phishing messages via your Short Message Service (SMS) text service. Typically, you’ll receive a text message from a hacker posing as a business with whom you do business. The message may ask you to update a password, re-enter your credit card or provide sensitive information which can be used to defraud you. Or to commandeer your phone to launch bot attacks or damage your files.
  • Spam – Plain old spam, just like the kind that attacks your PC email, will also turn up in your smartphone email or even in text messages. A lot of it is just annoying, but some of it will be unsolicited offers or smiphishing, both designed to get your personal information for financial gain or to destroy your files.
  • Bluetooth – Your Bluetooth connection can be hacked to provide access to your phone any time it’s turned on, even when it’s turned on but not in use.

What you can do

In a word, beware. Be as careful in how you use your smartphone as you are when you use your PC –
  • Don’t open email if you don’t know the sender. If any sender asks you to provide sensitive information, don’t. If such a request seems to be from a business you know. Use your browser to go to their website or a phone to call the business.
  • Don’t answer text messages that ask for personal information. Again, if you think it might be legitimate, contact the purported sender by other means.
  • Delete spam, don’t answer it.
  • Turn off Bluetooth when you’re not using it, or when you are speaking or entering sensitive information into your smartphone.

Buy protection

Just as you should always secure your PC with up-to-date Internet security software, you should protect your smartphone with smartphone security software, such as Norton™ Smartphone Security, which will protect your smartphone against the latest security threats.

Be smart, beware

Beware, be careful, install security software and keep it up to date. Then you can talk, text, browse, and transact fearlessly. And live your mobile life to its fullest.

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