Wednesday, January 15, 2014

South Africans are doing more on their mobile devices than ever before. Socialising, e-mailing, shopping and banking are convenient, fast and can be done anywhere, at any time.

Recent statistics show that over 3.7 million adults access their financial accounts via their cellphone. This number has more than doubled since 2010. But, conducting sensitive transactions on a mobile handset or tablet can be risky.

Stats from IT security vendor, Symantec, show a 58% increase in mobile malware such as viruses and spyware. As more people increasingly use their mobile devices to transact and shop, so the opportunities for criminals to steal and generate revenue from users will continue to grow.

Says Dial Direct’s spokesperson, John October: “Today’s smartphones and tablets are powerful mini-computers, with vast functionality to make our lives on the run easier and more productive. Due to the volume and sensitive nature of the information we store and transmit, it is becoming increasingly important to treat security on mobiles with the same level of cognisance that we do for PCs and laptops.

“Failure to install and update a robust mobile security solution makes your device vulnerable to attack by criminals, which puts your sensitive information such as banking information at risk.”

Most malicious code for mobile devices consists of Trojans that pose as legitimate applications or games. These applications are uploaded to mobile application marketplaces where users unwittingly download them. Mobile malware, posing as legit apps, are mostly designed to steal information. Others cause devices to send out SMSes to premium-rate numbers, while banking Trojans gather sensitive details like passwords and account numbers.

“So it goes without saying that you need to be very careful about what you download and from where. Still, because you can never be sure that the application you are downloading is really legit, you should have comprehensive security installed on your cellphone and tablet to either prevent the download of untrustworthy apps, or stop them for doing the ‘job’ they are designed to do,” advises October.

Smartphone security solutions are usually available through users’ cellular service providers. Oftentimes, these need to be activated by the user. Users might also find that they need to pay a subscription in order to benefit from the full range of security features such as app protection and web browsing protection. Some phones, like Blackberrys, have security software installed on them. Then, there are a variety of mobile security solutions available from IT security vendors which must be purchased.

“It is worth the while to double check that your phone is adequately protected against viruses, and that you have application control and web browsing protection if you use your phone to access the internet, download apps or games, and conduct transactions like banking and online shopping.

He concludes saying that being smart about device security also means having insurance.

“Smartphones and tablets have hefty price tags, with some costing more than the average laptop. Just as you shouldn’t go bare on device security, you shouldn’t go bare on insurance.”

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