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Five Keys to Mobile Phone Security

Russell W. Gilmore, CISSP, CISM, EnCEComputer Forensics, Mobile Forensics

three people texting

Cell phones – specifically smartphones – have become ever present in our daily lives. For personal use, the smartphone contains contact information for family and friends, pictures, and other personal information. In the business environment, smartphones connect us to email servers, contain business contacts and documents, and connect us to company servers just to name a few. When you first get a smartphone your first concern is probably, “I hope I don’t lose my phone or break it.” If your smartphone is lost or stolen, the data inside may be more valuable than the phone. Just as we take precautions to protect our phone from damage, we should also protect the data inside.

Secure the Device with a Password

Depending on the type of smartphone, you may be able to type in a four-digit password to secure it. This is very common and adds a layer of protection that would prevent the average person from accessing your data if they found the phone. Just remember not to use 1111 or 1234 or another similar combination. The method to password protect a smartphone varies between manufacturers. Check your manual or with the service provider to see which type of password protection is available for you particular smartphone. Most phones give you the option to automatically require the password after several minutes of inactivity. I recommend setting this to no more than five minutes.

Enable Remote Locate and Wipe

If you leave your phone somewhere, you may get lucky that someone will find it and turn it in. All cell phones can be turned in to a provider location, and the provider should inform you that the phone has been recovered. Some phones don’t have provider information on them. You could call it in the hope that a Good Samaritan answers it and helps you recover your phone. Don’t expect this to happen if it is lost in the park or at the beach. There are a number of services offered both by your provider and third parties that can locate your phone by GPS and sometimes wipe the data from the phone. If you use a third-party service, the GPS has to be enabled on your phone.

Beware of Apps

Apps for smart phones exist for just about everything, and more are created every day. Apps can help with productivity or can be just for fun. Be aware of the apps you are installing on your device. Apps are given access to your device to make changes and have access to data. Verify the source of your app and be aware of the dangers. The most common access given to apps is to prevent the phone from sleeping, call lists – including called states, and internet connections. Some allow the phone to make calls and text messages.

Text Messaging

Have you ever received a spam text message? Most of us have. Most are harmless and are just another way for companies to get our attention and lead us to their website. Some text messages can be very harmful to your smartphone. Text messages can contain links to code or website that if clicked can load spyware and hacking software on your phone. This would give someone complete access to your phone, the data in your phone, and your voicemails and may allow them to listen to your calls. Do not click on or respond to any text message you receive from someone you do not know, especially if there is a link in the text message.

Back It Up

Most smartphones allow you to sync the data to your PC. The iPhone uses iTunes, and there are a number of different applications for Droids and other smartphones. Find out if your provider has an option to keep your phone backed up. If not, you can sync your smartphone with your personal computer. I always tell people to image how they would feel if they lost their smart phone or if it was stolen. One of the first concerns is quite often all the contact information that would have to be reentered or would be lost forever. Text messages, emails, contact information for family, friends, and coworkers, and so much more – gone.

We don’t think about the effect of losing our smartphone until it happens. Take a minute to think about the headaches and frustrations a lost device would cause you, and then implement the security measures that would ease those thoughts.

Plan. Protect. Prosper.

Protus3 specializes in security system design, security consulting, corporate investigations and other investigative services. Partner with Protus3 and we will examine each situation to identify threats and develop solutions for your best outcome.

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