Most employees would find it difficult to even imagine being productive without their mobile devices.
Modern smartphones and tablets are often just as powerful as laptops and desktop computers, so it’s no wonder that everyone from executives to college interns now relies on them for day-to-day communication, access to important documents, project and task organization, and much more.
In fact, most website traffic now comes from mobile devices, and that includes traffic to various cloud-based software, such as Microsoft 365, Slack, or Asana. But even though smartphones and tablets are now first-class citizens in most organizations, their protection against cybersecurity threats still leaves a lot to be desired.
Understanding Mobile Security Threats
Mobile security threats are evolving just as rapidly as the devices they target. Not that long ago, the capabilities of the average mobile device were limited, to say the least. These days, many people see no need to own a traditional computer because their smartphone or tablet lets them do everything they need.
The more capable mobile devices become, the more attractive targets they are in the eyes of cybercriminals, who are always looking for the easiest way to access protected resources. Here are just some mobile security threats all organizations need to know about:
- Mobile malware: Even though mobile malware isn’t nearly as widespread as Windows malware, it’s a steadily growing threat that affects more and more users every year. For example, the Joker malware alone has infiltrated more than Android 538,000 devices, causing substantial financial damage.
- Man-in-the-Middle Attacks: Because mobile devices are by definition, well, mobile, they rarely remain connected to the same network for too long. Cybercriminals are aware of this, and they don’t hesitate to set up malicious public hotspots to intercept network communications.
- Unpatched vulnerabilities: The first version of Android was released in 2008, and the first version of iOS in 2007. Since then, Android has reached version 11, and iOS version 14. The problem is that many users are still using old mobile operating systems, which may contain unpatched vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited.
- Malicious apps: The mobile app ecosystem is so massive that Google and Apple sometimes struggle to prevent malicious apps from finding their way into their app stores. Once installed, malicious apps can access sensitive information and, in extreme cases, give cybercriminals complete control over the device.
- Physical threats: It’s much easier to lose or steal a mobile device than a desktop computer. However, it’s often just as easy to extract business-critical files from a lost or stolen mobile device as from a hard drive, USB flash drive, or memory card.
Keeping Mobile Security Threats at Bay
As alarming as mobile security threats are, keeping them at bay is not nearly as difficult as it may seem. By implementing a few basic mobile security measures, you can greatly minimize the chance of experiencing a data breach caused by a vulnerable mobile device.
1. Create a Mobile Usage Policy
It’s paramount to include mobile devices in organization-wide security policies because different employees may have completely different ideas as to what’s safe usage and what’s not. For example, it’s a good idea to prohibit the installation of apps from third-party sources, or even third-party apps in general. Employees should be required to enable basic security features such as a screen lock and device-wide encryption. Jailbreaking and other software modifications should be strictly forbidden.
2. Avoid Public Wi-Fi Networks
As convenient as they are, public Wi-Fi networks should be avoided when doing work or remotely accessing private information because it’s difficult for the average employee to distinguish legitimate public Wi-Fi networks from honeypots created by cybercriminals. In situations when their use can’t be avoided, all traffic should go through a secure VPN. In all other cases, it’s better to use mobile data.
3. Keep the Operating System and Apps Updated
The latest version of Android is installed on less than 20 percent of Android devices (phones and tablets). The situation is considerably better when it comes to iOS, whose latest version is installed on around 85 percent of all devices. As we’ve already explained, outdated mobile operating systems and apps may contain easily exploitable vulnerabilities, so keeping all mobile devices fully updated should be every organization’s top priority. Mobile device management (MDM) can be greatly beneficial in this regard by centralizing mobile device administration and maintenance.
4. Use a Mobile Anti-Malware Solution
Most developers of anti-malware software have released mobile-specific solutions capable of detecting and neutralizing known mobile malware. Such solutions often come with a whole host of extra features that can go a long way in keeping employees more secure. They include device tracking, ad blocking, remote wiping, and others.
5. Build Mobile Security Awareness
Many mobile-specific cyber threats are fairly new, and most users don’t know much about them yet. That’s why basic user education around safe usage practices can be the best cybersecurity investment you can possibly make. When mobile users understand which activities can harm them and how, they’re much more likely to avoid them in the first place. To ensure the maximum effectiveness of mobile security awareness training, make sure to make it a regular activity and prioritize real-world examples and exercises over dry theory.
Mobile devices already play an essential role in our personal and work lives, and their importance will only keep increasing as organizations continue to embrace the hybrid work model. Without basic mobile security measures in place, employees’ smartphones and tablets can become entry points for cybercriminals and malware, so it’s in the best interest of all organizations to implement them as soon as possible. Aligned Technology Solutions can help you strengthen your mobile security by implementing tailored solutions that address your needs without draining your budget. Contact us for more information.