People believe that their smartphone is more secure than their PC, and therefore
less likely to be compromised by a hacker. The truth is that any device with a
connection to the Internet is vulnerable to compromise, and a wireless device is
easier to hack than a wired device. Here is why.
1. Password. Most smartphones use a 4-6 digit code, entered on the screen
keyboard. Someone can take a video (using their own smartphone) of you
typing in your password, from the side or rear view of your phone, without
seeing your screen. Then they send the video to an app that decodes your
password by analysing your finger movements, and gets the answer right
about 90% of the time. The password on your PC is likely much more resistant
2. Fingerprint unlock. Biometrics are convenient, but you leave that “password” in
lots of public places, such as drinks glasses in a bar. A sophisticated individual
can make a copy of that fingerprint and then render it in a form that unlocks
your phone, or makes a payment (like Apple Pay).
3. Intentional malware download. If someone borrows your cell phone to make
an emergency call, they can use the App Store to download a malicious app
in seconds. That app then acts as a keystroke logger, transmitting IDs and
passwords (for mobile banking?) to the hacker’s website. Worse still, the app
can activate your microphone in private meetings without your knowledge,
and transmit your location coordinates 7×24.
4. Accidental malware download. When you install an app from the App Store, do
you carefully check the default settings? Some apps give permission to activate
the microphone, the GPS, even the camera without your knowledge. Your PC
will almost certainly have anti-virus software to prevent “drive by downloads”
of executable files, but smartphones don’t. 97% of the top, paid Android apps
and 87% of the top, paid Apple iOS apps have been hacked.
5. Phishing. Whereas you might spot a fake website or a spoof URL on your large
PC screen, it is much harder to detect these tricks on your small smartphone
6. Wireless eavesdropping. Wi-Fi nodes in public places like cafes, airports etc. are
notoriously insecure, and hackers can easily monitor all your web traffic. You
are more secure using your cellular provider’s network.
Once your smartphone has been hacked, you are much more vulnerable than your
home PC being hacked. The intruder has your keystrokes, text messages, voice calls,
location, video, and almost certainly access to business assets like company email.
My advice? Regularly go into the settings and look at data usage – it will show you
all the applications and how much data they’re using.