The Threat in Your Pocket: Devices Are Also at Risk of Cyber Crime

Virtually everyone walking around in the civilized world today holds in their hand a device that cybercriminals can use to make their lives miserable.

It’s not only computers and laptops that users have to be concerned about; mobile devices are equally as vulnerable to attacks, especially since most people now use their smartphones and tablets to access the Internet and their email.
The four biggest cyber security threats faced by device-users:

Known Unpatched vulnerabilities: New viruses and malware are being deployed every day, by the millions in fact, but the good news is that technicians are getting better at discovering and identifying the threats and quickly creating “patches” to nullify those vulnerabilities. The risk to a user increases significantly when users don’t, for any number of reasons, deploy those patches – usually via app and system updates – even when the risk and remedy is known.

Unknown Unpatched vulnerabilities: Of course, many of these millions of threats go unidentified and, therefore, unpatched. These unknown threats are significant and can lead to everything from a loss of data to identity theft to financial catastrophe. Another name for these threats are zero-day vulnerabilities.

Web pages that the user visits: All it takes is one click to land a user on a page that launches a virus that can attack his/her device, but could also begin using that very device, unbeknownst to the owner, to carry out a cyberattack – usually in the form of a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack – on Internet behemoths such as Google, Twitter, or Amazon.

Spoofed emails/spear phishing: Because it is now common practice to receive email – personal email or, even more problematically, company/business email – on smartphones, users must remain vigilant, ever-aware of the fact that cyber thugs will attempt to exploit vulnerabilities there. They’ll often send “spoofed” emails, sending from what looks like trusted companies such as FedEx or Target that will ask you to share information they can use to infiltrate, for instance, your bank accounts. Another insidious method is “spear phishing,” where criminals pretend to be someone known to the receiver, so, again, they get the user to click a link that can open up a Pandora’s Box of trouble.

These issues are ongoing, with no end in sight. The take-away here is that bad guys are becoming more and more creative and are usually a step ahead in ways to trick their victims into clicking on links or giving up personal information. This presents a real problem for the average device-user, since they’re often slow to download the most recent updates for both the device and installed applications. All the technology in the world won’t help if it’s not deployed.

The best advice for device-users is similar to what experts have been telling computer users for a while: Stay alert and always proceed with a healthy dose of suspicion. Err on the side of caution, and especially double check before clicking on any attachment or link.