The sheer amount of innovation that is being packed into mobile devices is quite impressive. It seems as if new smartphones and tablets are being released at such a frantic pace that it’s hard to keep up with all the new bells and whistles. While the mobile landscape is certainly becoming more and more fascinating as each day passes, it is also seeing an increased presence from cybercriminals and other malicious beings looking to capitalize off of its skyrocketing popularity.
Since many consumers are choosing to adopt smartphones and similar devices as their mini computers on the go and trusting them to help with many everyday functions such as email, banking, and more, hackers are now scheming ways to access all of the sensitive information that passes through. This is not surprising, as hackers usually change with the times to target popular, widely used platforms. Luckily, there are ways to combat security flaws and those trying to exploit them. This article will list some of the most recent flaws making mobile news and detail how you can keep yourself protected.
Flaw-filled Pre-loaded Apps
Many smartphones come equipped with several pre-loaded apps meant to supply users with added functionality and give them a taste of what apps have to offer. Unfortunately, according to some North Carolina State University researchers, some pre-loaded apps are afflicted with critical security flaws. In particular, eight different Android smartphones from trusted names like Google, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung were found to have vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to listen in on calls, steal sensitive data, or even wipe the handset completely.
Getting back to the topic of eavesdropping on calls, controversial Wikileaks founder Julian Assange recently made some startling claims. He noted that over 150 private sector organizations spread across 25 countries have the capability track mobile devices, listen to calls, intercept messages, hack into email accounts, and view web browsing histories. Assange added that the valuable information could then be sold on a wholesale level to governments or those in the private sector for the right price.
So, with all these scary claims, what can you do? The most common method to clear your mobile tracks is to go to your settings and clear all of your browsing history. If you are really paranoid about cyber thieves stealing your sensitive information, avoid using your devices to things such as shop or perform bank transactions. Leave those tasks for home use on your desktop or laptop, provided they have updated antivirus software running.
Carrier IQ’s Tracking Accusations
When security researcher Trevor Eckhart claimed that Carrier Q’s diagnostic software was mysteriously installed on approximately 140 million smartphones worldwide without users’ knowledge, he created a firestorm of controversy. That controversy was made even worse by accusations that the software was logging keystrokes and web browsing history.
Nokia and Research in Motion denied adding such software to their smartphones, as did carrier Verizon Wireless. Apple, HTC, and Samsung, as well as AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, however, did admit that some of their phones made use of the diagnostic software. Carrier IQ has since denied the logging accusations, and many question their validity, as Eckhart’s findings have not been properly evaluated.
Nonetheless, if you are worried about Carrier IQ and its possible logging functionality, you can detect its presence with the help of the Voodoo Carrier IQ Detector app for Android. Released to the Android Market in early December, the app will notify you if Carrier IQ is running on your Android handset, but it will not remove it. Eckhart did release an app that will supposedly dispose of Carrier IQ’s software, but the process requires users to root their Android devices. That can get a bit technical for most casual smartphone owners, and the fact that the app costs $1 could be a deterrent to those who are opposed to paying for apps. Still, if the Carrier IQ rumors do bother you, it may be worth the trouble to remove the software for added peace of mind.
Beware of Skype
Skype is a great way to keep in contact with others, but it also comes with problems. Of course, with over 100 million users, there’s no wonder why hackers try their best to exploit flaws in the service, as they can get more bang for their buck. One experiment conducted by researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University showed the dangers of Skype. After making 10,000 video calls to random users, the researchers found that IP addresses could be stolen to track locations, downloads, and chatting history, even if the users did not accept the incoming calls.
One way to shield yourself from such Skype trouble is to avoid using your real name as your username. Another option is to only turn on Skype and keep it open if you are expecting a call via the service.
For more on this topic, visit http://www.pcworld.com/article/245463/tips_for_mobile_device_users_worried_about_latest_security_flaws.html
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