First 30 Days Blog

27 feb

7 Steps for Securing Mobile Devices

RobertCordrayIn the wake of reports regarding security risks posed by Apple’s just released iOS 7 mobile platform for the iPhone and iPad, individuals and enterprises should take time to reevaluate the security risks of all mobile devices they use.

These risks fall into two main categories. The first category, Device Risks, deals with the fact that today’s mobile devices are in fact sophisticated high-powered cloud-connected computers. The second category, App Risks, refers to the installation of third-party mobile apps that could result in personal or corporate networks and data being compromised.

Fortunately, there are a number of actionable steps that can be taken to better protect mobile devices from both types of risks, with the following 7 steps being among the most important.

Step #1: Don’t let basic protection lag

Today’s smartphones and tablets are just as susceptible to the malware that is targeting desktops and laptops. In fact, they are becoming more vulnerable. To keep sensitive information safe, users of internet-enabled mobile devices must make sure that all basic protection tools, such as antivirus programs, personal firewalls, password protections and other built-in security settings are in place and kept current.

Step #2: Beware of wireless connections

Wireless networks, particularly open WiFi hotspots, make mobile devices much more susceptible to security breaches. Just ask the folks at Google how it works. Users should activate wireless connections only when absolutely needed and only for brief periods of time. Organizations whose employees are using open WiFi hotspots should require them to use a VPN server to safely connect to internal resources.

Step #3: Avoid app mishaps

Mobile devices such as smartphones are going everywhere nowadays. And with the proliferation of apps—many of which are free, easy to install and potentially harmful—users need to exercise caution when selecting and installing apps. Designed to exploit data, many apps can disable security functions and collect personal data unbeknownst to the user. Individuals and organizations need to make sure that only apps from reputable sources are installed on mobile devices. Even then it’s important to be clear as to the permissions or access rights that are being granted to each app before installation, as some apps may be given more access to sensitive data than is warranted.

Step #4: Be clear on BYOD

Enterprises that permit BYOD in the workplace need to adopt ways to reduce the data footprints of mobile devices and minimize security risks. Sensitive data should be stored with encryption software and corporate data should only be made available via local servers and with password protection. In addition, enterprises need to have clear “data sensitivity” policies in place so all employees know exactly what is allowed and expected, such as NEVER storing sensitive information on a cellphone.

Step #5: Perform regular backups

Mobile device users need to get in the habit of backing up the data on their devices regularly. This is especially important in the event a device is stolen or is incapacitated due to physical damage. These backups can be done either locally or on cloud-based platforms. In addition, backups should be encrypted and protected by very strong passwords to prevent unauthorized access. Many Internet security experts recommend long random passwords that avoid actual words, years and calendar dates, as these are much more difficult to crack.

Step #6: Utilize locate, lock and wipe software

Although smartphones are getting bigger, it’s still possible to misplace them. And smartphones are always attractive to thieves. In either event, enabling remote locate, lock and wipe software on a smartphone can enhance the chances of finding said phone with the data intact. And if the phone is determined to have been lost or stolen for good, the ability to wipe all the data is a crucial security benefit.

Step #7: Turn off Bluetooth and geotagging

Geotagging is a cool feature, but it can divulge a user’s whereabouts when a particular photo or video was taken. Therefore it may be best to switch it off. The same goes for Bluetooth discovery mode, as leaving it on all the time, even when not trying to pair a device, can result in an unauthorized connection to the phone. Although this security breach would have to be made by someone in close proximity, it could easily be done and not detected.

As the mobile device explosion continues, security risks associated with smartphones and tablets will continue to pose a threat. Therefore it’s more essential than ever that individual users and organizations stay educated and informed about the risks associated with the devices they are using and more importantly, the ways in which those risks can be mitigated.

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Posted by Robert Cordray on February 27th, 2014 in Technology | 0 comments

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