As mobile devices become more integrated into the modern workforce, developing security policies to mitigate threats is that much more essential to daily operations. Keeping data secure is becoming more challenging and harder to manage with the ubiquity of mobile devices. Even so, implementing security measures and policies that meet threats head-on is an important component of today’s modern businesses and organizations.
Let’s explore some common threats to mobile devices and countermeasures that can help mitigate them.
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Types of Threats Associated with Mobile Device Security
While modern mobile devices provide similar functionality to desktop workstations, they also present new threats and security challenges. This makes pinning down security threats for mobile devices that much more difficult. It’s almost impossible to approach this topic with a single-minded methodology.
To truly grasp what the threat landscape means taking an intimate look at how mobile devices operate, how enterprise organizations use them and what role the end-user plays in keeping devices safe. While you’ll find a lot to cover in regards to security threats to mobile devices and countermeasures, most threats fall into one of four categories:
- Mobile application threats — These are threats that originate in the applications users download and use. Examples include malware and spyware that steal personal and sensitive data.
- Mobile device security threats — These are physical threats to mobile devices themselves. This could be direct-access attacks from hackers or just a user misplacing their device and a bad actor picking it up.
- Mobile network threats — Mobile devices come packed with all kinds of communication radios. Often, features like Wi-Fi connectivity and Bluetooth provide a fairly large attack surface for bad actors.
- Web-based threats — Often going unnoticed, these threats come from using unsecured websites, engaging with phishing sites or just clicking a fake link.
Common Security Challenges for Mobile Devices
While you can find plenty of threats to mobile devices, a few common types of attacks and vulnerabilities often make up the bulk of security incidents. Below you’ll find some of those common threats and the ways in which you can mitigate those vulnerabilities.
Social Engineering Attacks
We’ve all seen an attempt at a social engineering attack. Every day, an unfathomable number of spam messages hit inboxes across the globe. These could be emails or text messages, but the goal is the same; trick the user into interacting with the message. You may know these types of attacks by their more common name, phishing.
While 96% of social engineer threats arrive in email, we’ve recently seen a rise in SMS-based attacks. The multiplied prongs of attack mean mobile devices and their users are constantly at risk — and threats are evolving and increasing in number. While a tech-savvy user base makes phishing less likely, evolving attack strategies mean the end-user needs to keep up with a shifting threat landscape.
Often, the best defense against phishing and other social engineering attacks is to train employees to spot and remove suspicious emails and texts before they fall victim to the scam. In certain sensitive data environments, phishing security might even mean restricting access to protected networks to reduce access points for potential attackers.
The threat landscape for mobile devices skyrocketed through the ubiquitous availability, development, and use of app stores. The fact is that while one would hope that major application provider platforms, like Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store, carefully vet each piece of software, they don’t.
The lack of strict security guidelines might seem like a major disadvantage, but it provides access to a broader range of applications and services. Security measures always seem to balance against convenience — and for a lot of user-facing companies, convenience is the name of the game.
Malware threats creep through unsecured applications and come in many different varieties. These include:
- Backdoor threats that utilize trojanized software.
- Mobile miners that sneakily use your phone’s processing power to mine cryptocurrencies.
- Fake applications that imitate popular software
Keeping users safe from malware threats requires a varied strategy. First, awareness of what a malicious app looks like should be a part of employee training. This includes education on where malware comes from and training on the importance of limiting permissions for mobile software. Additionally, implementing security policies like whitelisting and controlling which apps users can download is effective.
Unsecured Public Wi-Fi
As more companies become dependent on mobile devices and a mobile workforce, the threats posed by unsecured wireless connections are only growing — and many organizations seem somewhat unaware of the potential consequences.
For public networks, it’s hard to track down whether the connection is encrypted or not. In the United States alone, around 40% of public Wi-Fi networks use either unreliable protections or no encryption at all. This puts mobile users at risk. All it takes is for an attacker to spoof a security certificate, create a dummy network and wait for a victim to perform a man-in-the-middle style attack.
It’s much easier to trick the unsuspecting public than you’d like to think. To counteract the threat of public Wi-Fi, end-users should:
- Avoid using non-password-protected networks and staying vigilant even with networks that require a password.
- Turn off Wi-Fi when not in use.
- Limit actions on public networks to reduce the risk of transmitting secure data.
- Enable the option to “always use a secure connection (HTTPS)” in device settings.
- If possible, use a virtual private network (VPN).
If we’re being honest, user behavior plays an integral role in securing mobile devices in any environment. IT administrators and business management can’t ignore this somewhat chaotic variable. In fact, while a thrilling narrative about espionage usually follows cybersecurity, the reality is that it’s often user error that provides attackers the vulnerability they need to access secure data and networks.
The first thing that users struggle with is keeping track of their devices. Lost and stolen devices present one of the most significant risks to keeping data secure. But, with security-centric behavior changes, users can easily mitigate these risks. This includes using 2-factor authentication (2FA), avoiding automatic logins, using password locks and implementing remote wipe capabilities.
As the lines between what’s a personal device and what’s a work-only device become more blurred, user behavior is playing more and more of a role in mobile device security. More than just losing your phone, organizations looking to secure their mobile device network will need to focus on new strategies to meet evolving threats and the demands of the modern workplace.
- Security awareness training
- Providing detailed information regarding online fraud techniques
- Regularly reviewing security practices and policies
Meeting Modern Mobile Security Challenges with Archon Mobile
Security threats to mobile devices and countermeasures will always evolve and change. This makes the job of securing data on mobile devices that much more of a challenge. Here at Archon Mobile, we take a different approach to security that helps mitigate most of the threats we’ve explored today.
The best part is that we do so with no cost to the convenience of a device. To learn more about our security solutions, reach out today.