People across the board are switching from traditional cell phones to more complex and connected cellular phones, and the new technology is opening the door for the latest threat to smartphone data: Identity theft.
Viruses and malware have been a concern for personal computer users for a long time now, as the internet has enabled users access to more information than ever before. But this connectivity also makes personal information easier to steal and abuse as well.
Now, these threats are moving to the some of the hottest and most popular devices: Smartphones like the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry
Despite the threat, industry experts are staying ahead of the game and meeting the challenges that hackers and identity thieves are throwing their way, reports the Chicago Tribune.
But even as the protection from software and internet viruses is kept under control for most consumers, there is another way that consumers are letting their information fall into the hands of identity thieves: lost and stolen smartphones.
Smartphones are so connected to their users' everyday lives the devices can be a treasure chest of personal information. If an iPhone or other smartphone falls into the hands of an unscrupulous person, they can often easily access email accounts, bank account balances, social networking profiles, calendars and photo albums. Scores of personal information is literally at the fingertips of a smartphone thief.
Identity theft, in some circumstances, can cause such havoc that victims must file personal bankruptcy to protect themselves.
According to security professional Peter Beardmore of Kaspersky Lab in Massachusetts, smartphones are not easy to crack for internet hackers, but they are ideal for information thieves. “What’s really going on today is fraudsters and cybercriminals are looking to steal data,” said Beardmore. Rather than being used by viruses to send out SPAM remotely, “a mobile phone is a great candidate to steal user data from,” he said.
In a prominent incident of information access via smartphone, a confidential prototype of the newest version of the Apple iPhone was found in a bar. While the information on the smartphone was wiped out remotely by the next morning, the finder of the lost phone was able to determine the identity of the owner by looking at their Facebook profile on the smartphone.
Rather than protecting against malware and viruses, then, security experts are looking at ways to stop good old fashioned traditional theft and loss by smartphone owners.
With that goal in mind, there is a new application for Google’s Android operating system that would allow users to wipe the personal information off of their phone remotely, so that thieves could not use it to steal their identity. The application would also allow users to lock their smartphones remotely.
The product comes from Norton Symantec, and while it isn’t the first application to perform this role, it comes at a time when awareness of such a threat is low. With the spreading popularity of smartphones, it will only increase.
Smartphone users can take measures to keep their phones safe by taking a few simple steps. To start with, setting a PIN for a mobile device is an easy way to block information thieves from immediately accessing a smartphone. Many don’t use this simple security option when it can provide an initial barrier to criminals. Backing up a smartphone’s data is another way to stay in control of smartphone data.
In terms of cybersecurity, updating software on schedule is another way to make sure to stay on top of information security.