By Jesse Oguntimehin

This will be the concluding session of the series on mobile security with a focus on one area we need to pay more attention to, especially with the ‘there is an app for this” mantra.

The world has gone app crazy. You are as cool as the app you use, I think. With the different functionality in smart phones and the availability of different apps, more people are loading apps on their phones- oblivious of the risk involved.

If you have a smart phone and you love installing apps on them, it is vital you know the security implications. Let me share a few detail with you. These are things you MUST know:

There is a popular app called Whatsapp. It is a messaging app that is available on Java phones, Symbian, Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone. The moment you install the app, all you contacts are uploaded to their servers. It makes it possible for you to be able o know which of your contacts are using the app in order to start messaging them. What does this imply? This implies that your phone book contacts are stored on a remote server somewhere. If you don’t know the folks or trust them enough, how safe is your phonebook?

Meanwhile, they are not the only ones that have your contacts backed up. I observed this the last time I used Facebook on Blackberry, it accesses you contact and match the picture of those on your Facebook profile with the contacts on your phone.

It is important to verify who is behind an app before you allow full access on your data. Do you trust them enough to give them the keys? Even those that are trust worthy have sometimes fallen victim of hackers. This past week, Visa and MasterCard fell to hackers. The many details of their client stored securely on their servers were compromised and they issued a warning to their customers. Similarly, some folks, who believe they were playing a video game, never knew they granted access to a remote person who sends SMS from their phone. [They have arrested the guys]

I am not telling you all this because I want you to start dreading apps on your smart phone or connecting your phone to the internet, I just want you to know what is possible in order to take some precautions.

Downloading untrusted and unsigned apps on your smart phones can harm your phone and compromise secure information on your device. They can install spyware and virus on your phone. These malicious programs can provide leakages on your phone and create a back door for hackers to access your phone. They can design the spyware to do things they want it to do without you knowing that there are certain operations going in your phone. It may be to get your credit card details—if you use your phone to purchase online, sniff your emails, just name it, anything they want. Whenever you jailbreak your iPhone, Root your android device or install unsigned application on your Nokia phone, you are increasing your chances of being exposed to hackers.

Even when you do not lose your phone, you may be exposing your data to strangers in the ways I have explained above.

How can you reduce the risk of being hit by hackers who intends to spy on you and gain control of your smart phone?

  1. Download your applications from the official application store only. Otherwise you expose yourself and your mobile phone software provider does not protect you.
  2. Don’t jailbreak or root your device. If you do and have cracked software on your device, the joke is on you.
  3. Install an antivirus on your phone. Antivirus doesn’t just protect your phone from being damaged, it protects you against apps that try to create back door that will steal your data. [check the ToS of your chosen antivirus]
  4. When granting permission to apps that you install from the official application store, please read carefully the data the application is being granted access to. Install only if you agree.

You can’t be too careful. But, it is not enough reason for you to ignore the possibilities of being hit totally. I hope you find this little piece of information useful.

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