A friend of mine recently changed her Smartphone Contract with a well known High Street Retailer. Before collecting her replacement phone she diligently backed everything up… except her photos, due to the size of the high-res files. The shop assistant said not to worry because he could download the photos, from her smartphone, onto a USB key (via a laptop in the store). She could then upload the images onto her own PC at home. As the download would take nearly an hour she left her smartphone in the store while she went about her business rather than wait, guarding her phone, while the download completed. How trusting of her! When the download was complete my friend’s new smartphone was returned along with a USB stick full of photos, however she wouldn’t have known if such precious data went elsewhere as well!
There is no way I would consider leaving my unlocked smartphone with someone I didn’t know while photos were downloaded. How could my friend be sure only her photos were being downloaded? How could she be sure her e-commerce credit card / mobile banking details weren’t being hacked? How did she know her phone wasn’t being cloned or infected with malware?
Smartphones have all our personal details stored on them, and are increasingly becoming mobile wallets, so I would be extremely reticent to leave it unattended, even for a minute. This experience coupled with findings from Symantec’s recent Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR) show that mobile vulnerabilities increased by 93% in 2011. Increasingly ‘time-poor people’ are using Mobile Banking or Mobile commerce on-the-move. Malware authors are creating mobile-specific versions geared to the unique smartphone usage pattern. 2011 was the first year that mobile malware presented a tangible threat.
We need to be even more vigilant as these threats are specifically targeting sensitive personal data. We don’t need to help the cybercriminals by being lax in looking after our smartphone and mobile devices. It continues to be important to ensure we password protect our devices and using mobile security software. We all need to look after our devices with the same vigilance as we look after our wallet, purse or house keys.