Today we are relying on our devices more and more. Cyber risks associated with smartphones are increasing day by day.
Here is the summary of cyber risks related to smartphones: Covering following topics: a) pros and cons of smartphones, b) basic operating system used in smartphones, c) why an Android operating system software is riskier than any other operating system software, and d) how to minimize cyber risks associated with smartphone.
Smartphones are now a part of our daily life. On average Americans are spending 5 hours per day on a smartphone. Moreover, very few of us can live without a cell phone because landlines are disappearing fast. Pros and cons associated with the use of a cell phone are listed below.
Pros: High level of portability, easy access to web, savings, constant communication between parents and children, tracking location of a family member or a friend in a distress or an emergency, convenience of taking photos including videos and so on.
Cons: Texting while driving has increased risk of car accidents, a desire to purchase the newest model introduced in market and above all loss of family time and human interaction (people are constantly playing games on cell phone instead of engaging in meaningful socialization to build lasting friendship). Cell phones (or smart phones) are also subject to cyber risk losing valuable personal and financial data.
Three basic operating system platforms used in smartphones.
There are several firms manufacturing cell phones. Too many to list. However, one thing that is common in all cell phones is that it is either based on Apple’s Operating system platform, Android’s operating system platform, Window's operating system platform or Blackberry’s operating system platform. In short, all cell manufacturers must adhere to any one of four platforms. Of course, each operating system platform installed in a cell phone has its pros and cons. Consumers chose a cell phone based on technical features (i.e. bells and whistles) along with price and customer services.
Main source of smartphone’s cyber risk (i.e. an open source platform).
Often, consumers purchase a cell phone without evaluating cyber risks associated with its operating system. Some operating system platforms are easily hacked where as some operating system are not. In general, we would like to install any application written in any language. For example, we would like to install an application software for controlling a security system of a cell phone using a software sold by any vendor. This is called an open source system. Apple does not offer this flexibility. Apple phones do not have an open source operating platform. The public must install only Apple’s application software. Apple’s operating system is proprietary, closed-source and more secure. This is good, because, a closed-source platform has less cyber risk compared to an open-source. Malware can easily penetrate an application’s software written by an outsider (i.e. a third-party firm). TIMES report says that in Apple’s smartphone, “Everything is encrypted, and more importantly, the key to that encryption is extraordinarily difficult to extract.”
On the other hand, Android’s operating platform system is an open-source platform. Software writers are selling phone-applications at a cheaper price compared to applications installed on Apple phones. To summarize, an internet research suggests that Android operating systems are more vulnerable to cyber risks. And main reason for this cyber risk is an open source operating platform.
How to minimize cyber risks while using a smartphone?
No smartphone is completely 100% safe from cyber risks including an Apple phone which has a closed-source operating system. However, consumers can take a few basic steps to minimize cyber risks.
1. Lock your screen (possibly after every 30 seconds when cell phone is left unattended).
2. Wipe out all information from cell phone after 10 failed login attempts.
3. Don’t use a pin code for locking screen. Instead, use a complex password with alphabets, numbers and symbols.
4. Use biometric (i.e. finger print scanner) for waking up a cell phone. Apple is now using face ID for waking up a cell phone. Facial recognition technology is available on iPhone X
5. Be careful when downloading an application-software on a smartphone. Malware risk is high. Install an application software only from a reputable store instead of clicking an install button.
7. Get rid of application-software installed on a smartphone that are unused (and outdated).
8. Log out from all of your accounts.
9. Be careful when browsing a web. It’s even better to install an advertisement blocker.
10. Be careful about your co-workers and friends overlooking over your shoulder when logging into a smartphone. Often, onlookers are trying to steal login password.
11. Be careful about phishing. Don’t click on every link that you see on a screen.
12. Yes, don’t forget to activate your device locator to trace a stolen or a lost phone.
13. Use a two-factor authentication for password verification.
14. Turn on the antivirus system installed on a smartphone.
15. Use a secure wireless network (instead of logging at Starbucks or McDonald and so on).
16. Don’t sell or exchange a smartphone without resetting the entire device to an original factory setting (to be sure that data stored on smartphone are completely wiped out).
We can benefit from modern technologies and devices. However, we must learn how to minimize cyber threats by undertaking a few basic precautionary steps because no operating system is 100% safe from cyber criminals regardless of Apple’s system or Android’s system or Window’s system.