As we move more of our work and personal lives digital and carry all of it in our pockets, the struggle to secure your smartphone can often feel daunting and confusing. If you follow a few simple steps, you can protect yourself from the vast majority of threats that exist—both physical and digital.
Here are seven easy ways to secure your smartphone, plus a few special considerations for enterprise IT folks.
- Disk Encryption
In the event that your device is lost or stolen, encrypting your device prevents malicious actors from getting your private information. If you use an iOS device, automatically encrypt your phone by setting up a pin or passcode. If you use an Android device, head into your settings pane and setup full disk encryption. Android links a password or passcode to the encryption scheme, so even if someone were to copy your data, it would be useless.
- Automatic Updates
Apps make it easy to get work done, keep up with friends and play games on the go. Unfortunately, sometimes these apps leak information or expose vulnerabilities. Set your phone to auto-install new app updates to avoid security risks. An added benefit is that oftentimes these updates include speed improvements and new features.
- Up-To-Date Operating System (OS)
Apple and Google constantly make improvements to iOS and Android. Throughout the year, both release new OS versions. Download these updates as soon as available to take advantage of new security improvements, which often reduce the threat surface for attackers and remove known vulnerabilities.
- Screen Lock
Physical security is just as important as good digital hygiene. Since most devices today include biometric capabilities, like TouchID or other fingerprint readers, the pain of constantly entering your device password is gone. Set your screen to lock with the minimum amount of time available on your device—oftentimes 30 seconds. This will prevent someone from grabbing your phone and accessing your data if you step away from your device.
Some dubious websites provide guidance on how to root (Android) or jailbreak (iOS) your device. This allows you to customize your device more than the manufacturer intended. While this might seem nice at first, this compromises the entire security model of the phone and exposes you to malicious actors and security vulnerabilities. By rooting or jailbreaking your device, you could give someone complete control and access to your data without even knowing it. Avoid jailbreaking or rooting your device.
- Malicious Profiles
Configuration profiles allow your corporate IT department or school to make it easier to access specific resources, like email on your smartphone. Sometimes, nefarious websites attempt to install a profile without you knowing. Questionable websites claim to offer free access to apps, games, movies or other content to install a configuration profile on your device. These malicious profiles can give full access to your device and web traffic. Avoid installing configuration profiles that do not come from your corporate IT department or school.
- Avoid Insecure Public Wi-Fi
Using public Wi-Fi is a great way to get mobile access to the web and email without using your data plan. Unfortunately, malicious actors can snoop on this traffic from your mobile device. To prevent this, avoid using unknown public Wi-Fi when possible or use a free solution like Opera VPN. Opera VPN and similar apps are available in app stores and encrypt traffic moving from your mobile device. This means no one can snoop.
Special Considerations for Enterprise IT Administrators
If our organization runs a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program, provides corporate-owned devices to employees or you are responsible for managing these devices within your organization, take note of some ways you can ensure security for your organization and employees:
- Use a product purpose built for managing mobile devices.
VMware AirWatch is a unified endpoint management (UEM) platform that allows your corporate IT department to manage iOS, Windows, Mac, Android and other devices in a single solution. AirWatch provides all of the tools IT needs to create and manage a mobility program:
- Configure policies including app blacklists, Wi-Fi security, TLS enforcement and more.
- Enforce a device-level passcode with complexity and history requirements.
- Revoke access to company apps and data automatically if compliance policies are violated.
- Enable device-level encryption, data encryption and hardware security policies.
- Enforce containerization of business apps and data using native OS controls.
- Monitor for malware threats or jailbroken devices and automatically remediate with a remote lock, device wipe or customizable device quarantine controls.
- Use an identity and access management solution with single-sign on (SSO) capabilities.
Reduce password pain for end users and strengthen your organizations security posture with an integrated identity and access management solution. VMware Workspace ONE combines identity and access management with UEM. This powerful combination eliminates the need for complex passwords with single sign-on (SSO), a unified app catalog and endpoint management powered by AirWatch.
This article originally appeared on the AirWatch blog.
As smartphones increasingly become the primary computing device for many users, they also present a greater risk for certain cyber attacks. According to a recent report from ESET, ransomware attacks on Android devices rose more than 50% in the past year.
For those unfamiliar, ransomware is a form of malware wherein an attacker encrypts a user’s data and holds it hostage until they pay a monetary ransom. Ransomware has been an actively growing threat for quite some time, with many new tools emerging to counteract it.
The reason behind the growth in Android ransomware is actually quite simple. As more users rely on their phone as a daily computing device, they are storing more sensitive data there, which can be more easily exploited for ransom, the report stated.
According to the report, techniques such as lockscreen ransomware and crypto-ransomware, typically used in desktop attacks, are being adapted specifically for Android users. “ESET researchers have also seen cybercriminals put increased effort into keeping a low profile by encrypting and burying the malicious payload deeper into the infected apps,” the report also noted.
Android ransomware, and other forms of malware affecting the mobile OS, usually spreads by pretending to be another application—such as a trending game—to get the user to download it, an ESET white paper said. However, researchers also noticed a growing trend of attacks coming through email, using social engineering to try and get users to click a link and download an infected app.
Once a device is infected, the white paper said, the attacker can wipe the user’s device, send a message on their behalf, or perform a host of other malicious actions. Some versions of the ransomware even attempt to convince the user that their device was locked by law enforcement for illegal activity.
Geographically speaking, these attacks are growing among users in the U.S. and Asia, the report said.
Being that ransomware is a form of malware, there are a few ways to deal with it. First off, it’s important to make sure that the device’s settings are properly configured, especially those that manage app store downloads. There are also some other steps one can take if the device is infected, including booting in safe mode to remove the malware.
This latest report follows a host of other bad news for malware in Android devices. In mid-2016, a Kaspersky Lab report claimed that Android ransomware had quadrupled over the previous year. Additionally, a malware version called HummingBad was reported to have affected millions of devices.
This article originally appeared on TechRepublic.
At Tech Orchard, we’ve spoken with clients and written about the importance of taking precautionary security measures to protect mobile devices. For most users, the first step is setting a password to lock their smartphone or tablet. PINs and thumbprints are options available on devices from various manufacturers, while pattern lock is widely used as a mechanism for authentication and authorization on Android devices. Unfortunately for pattern lock users, this security method may be anything but secure.
Researchers from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom presented findings at The Network and Distributed System Security Symposium 2017 of a study indicating that video and computer vision algorithm software can typically crack a pattern lock in fewer than five attempts. What’s worse, it can do so without even seeing the screen itself. Tests of video-based attacks were successful in reconstructing Android lock patterns from video footage filmed using a mobile phone camera 95% of the time, and 97.5% of the time when more complex patterns were used.
Using footage of a user inputting his or her Android pattern lock, computer vision algorithm then analyzed the fingertip movements to infer a pattern. Researchers tested 120 patterns collected from 215 users and found that more complex patterns are even more vulnerable because they limit the number of working possibilities. A Phys.org article detailing the research indicated that mobile video can produce accurate results from up to 2.5 meters (or just over 8 feet) away, or up to 9 meters (nearly 30 feet) away using SLR footage. Though researchers only discussed these two types of video, the application for security camera footage could indicate the potential for more serious, widespread threats in the future.
The research paper suggests that users consider covering their hands when entering their pattern lock to avoid making their fingertip patterns traceable, or to set the screen brightness to change quickly to throw off any recording.
“Since our threat model is common in day-to-day life, this paper calls for the community to revisit the risks of using Android pattern lock to protect sensitive information,” researchers stated.
Ultimately, Android users may want to consider an alternative form of device lock, or implement two-factor authentication to better protect themselves from potential adversaries. Businesses leveraging enterprise mobility may want to keep these recommendations in mind when developing policies and procedures for employees who are using mobile devices as part of their jobs. If you need help identifying ways to keep your organization’s devices safe regardless of operating system or device type, contact our team for help.
After thorough research performed by our mobile threat prevention (MTP) partner, Check Point, a new and alarming type of malware campaign has been identified. Known as Gooligan, this malware is used to generate ad revenue on the Android platform. Check Point noted that as of the end of November, Gooligan had breached the security of more than one million Google accounts, with an additional 13,000 devices being impacted each day.
For companies with limited IT infrastructure, resources and support, the task of managing mobile devices can be perceived as costly and overly complex. Thanks to continued innovation and leadership in cloud infrastructure and business mobility, VMware has introduced a solution to eliminate these barriers to entry. AirWatch Express is a simple and affordable mobile device management (MDM) solution designed to get mobile devices up and running quickly by minimizing the technical steps typically needed for set-up and management.
As the competition between the top enterprise mobility management platforms heats up, it’s no surprise that a growing number of tech resources and publications are getting a closer look at their features and capabilities. Last month, we shared results of the EMA Radar report, which ranked AirWatch as its 2016 MDM (mobile device management) leader. It also identified MobileIron, MaaS360, Citrix and SOTI as fellow value leaders. Recently, PCMag conducted its own review of AirWatch, giving it an “excellent” editor ranking after thorough evaluation. Below is a snapshot of some of the information covered. Or, read the complete review online.