Stupid App Usage Makes Your Smartphone a Fraud Magnet
With the recent avalanche of digital convenience and mass centralization comes our next greatest privacy threat – the stupid use of Mobile Apps. As a society, we depend on the latest technology and instant connectivity so desperately that we rarely take the time to vet the application software (Apps) we install on our mobile phones (and with the introduction of the Mac App store, on our Macs). But many of the Apps out there have not been time-tested like the software on our computers. As much as we love to bash Microsoft and Adobe, they do have a track record of patching security concerns.
The ability to have all of your information at your fingertips on one device is breathtakingly convenient. My iPhone, for example, is used daily as an email client, web browser, book, radio, iPod, compass, recording device, address book, word processor, blog editor, calculator, camera, high-definition video recorder, to-do list, GPS, map, remote control, contact manager, Facebook client, backup device, digital filing cabinet, travel agent, newsreader and phone… among others (which is why I minimize my stupidity by following the steps I set out in the Smart Phone Survival Guide).
Anytime that much information is stored in one place, it becomes a fraud magnet. Anytime that many individual software programs make it onto a single device (without proper due diligence, i.e., with stupidity), it becomes an easy target for identity thieves and interns from your competitor who happen to buy their coffee at the same Starbucks as you and get paid to nick your phone while you’re in line. And it’s not just criminals trying to take advantage of you. As we’ve learned by the amount of personal information that Apps like Pandora drain from your mobile phone, advertisers are just as hungry for your bits and bytes.
In 2010, the number of individuals hacked through applications on their Smartphone rose drastically. Hacks aren’t just gaining access to usernames and passwords on individual applications, they are betting on the numbers and applying those same credentials to crack your bank accounts, investments and credit cards. Admit it, on how many websites do you use the same password? But the real damage comes when company privacy is compromised (customer data, confidential emails, contact lists, access into corporate systems, etc.). It’s so easy to download a new App without thinking about who created it and what terms you agreed to by downloading it (several months ago, two of the top downloaded game Apps were produced by the North Korean government and focused on collecting and transmitting your data back to Communist Central.
As if Stupid App Use by itself isn’t threatening enough, It is rumored that the next generation of iPads, iPhones and iPod Touchs will have Near-Field Communication capabilities. NFC is where the device can beam and receive credit card and payment information within 4 inches. It is very similar to how people can electronically pickpocket your credit card information using RFID technology. You would be able to swipe your device – or in this case your Smartphone – and be able to withdraw money from your bank account to pay for purchases, or to transfer some of your wealth to dishonest posers.
So what’s the good news? Simple. If you are taking steps to protect your mobile phone, your Apps and yourself, your risk drops below the panic line. Be careful about what Apps you download onto your phone without knowing anything about them. Use discretion when loading data to your phone and ask yourself if you really need to carry that on your handset. Set up a time-out password, remote tracking and wiping capabilities and consider security software and encryption. These basic steps will convince a would be thief to move on to their next victim.
John Sileo is the award-winning author of the Smartphone Survival Guide: 10 Critical Security Tips in 10 Minutes and four other books. He speaks professionally on playing information offense to avoid identity theft, social media exposure, cyber fraud, data breach and reputation manipulation. Learn more at www.ThinkLikeASpy.com.