While smartphones are the epitome of modern convenience, the dirty little secret is that these omnipresent devices, which we have with us 24X7, and keep switched on for most of that time, are also a serious threat to our privacy. Here’s why:
A key feature of a smartphone is its ablity to locate itself, via multi-lateration (a surveillance technique) to cell towers, or the integrated GPS chip. Even if you disable the GPS on your phone, it can be tracked via other sensors. While disclosing location data may seem harmless, it can be used for a phishing attack.
2. Malicious apps
Smartphone apps often ask for more information than is required. And we willingly provide this when we agree to the app permissions. We should, at least, be a little more suspicious why that new game needs access to our contacts, GPS and camera, and should download apps from reputable sources only.
3. WiFi tracking
Free WiFi connection, while convenient, is too often in reality an invasion of privacy. The features that make WiFi hotspots desirable to you also make it desirable for hackers; since it requires no authentication to establish a network connection. This allows hackers to get access to unsecured devices on the network.
4. Lack of anti-virus software
Everyone accepts that their PC needs additional security, so they download and install anti-virus software. But the necessity of anti-virus software is not as clear to most smartphone users, despite the amount of personal information the phones contain.
5. Your camera could be watching you
Smartphone cameras are also a security risk, as they can be activated and used to spy on the owner. Notorious hacker and author Kevin Mitnick says that this can be done by either installing software on the phone via physical access, or via a remote exploitation.
Every smartphone has a microphone, and it’s another security risk. While the main concern for many of us may be someone eavesdropping on private conversations, microphones also can be used for data collection.
7. Lack of security patches
Weekly security patches are a fact of life for Windows users, but when it comes to phones, while things are better for iOS and the Apple camp in general, there’s a lack of updates for Android, and not everyone will be running the latest version of Android at a given time.
8. Beware of the backdoor
The Chinese have allegedly engineered a backdoor into smartphones from some manufacturers. This has recently led the US intelligence agencies to recommend that Americans do not purchase smartphones from those manufacturers. The concern is that users’ data could be shared with a foreign government via a backdoor.