We typically think of hackers as people who tap into the networks of businesses and governmental agencies in hopes to make monetary gains. Likewise, we associate viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, and malware as malicious “things” your computer might catch since it is connected to the Internet. Why? This is because most PCs and laptops are hooked up to cyberspace via wires.
Portable Device Security
What about portable device security risks? Aren’t they likely to be hacked into as well? While we take extensive measures to protect our home and work computers from viruses, many of us tend to ignore the possibility of portable devices being adversely affected. Hence, the importance of safeguarding portable units should be stressed as well. Just because they’re wireless doesn’t mean they’re 100% immune from the “bad guys.”
There are numerous types of portable devices used by businesses and consumers alike as:
- Media devices which require a wired connection such as MP3 players, thumb drives, or media cards
- Devices that send or receive data through either a wired or wireless, non-cellular hookup like e-readers, gaming devices, music players with Wi-Fi capabilities, or tablets.
These gadgets are extremely vulnerable to losses of personal data and network security breaches since they can be used to transport and share data on-the-go. They can easily be connected to various networks and hosts within seconds. Worse yet, any of them can be easily misplaced or lost with the possibility of them falling into the wrong hands.
Although using smart devices seems harmless, they cause many problems for individuals and companies. According to TechAdvisory, approximately 25% of malware travels through USB devices. A thumb drive may contain malware that is launched and transmitted to your PC once it is plugged in. Its malware would set itself up on your PC by activating its Autorun or Autoplay features, all without you knowing about it.
Once your PC becomes infected, your data may be lost or corrupted as the malware spreads to other computers on the network. Keep in mind that this malware is inside the firewalls of your PC and often will not be noticed until a significant amount of damage has been done. Some downloaded games and applications may contain malware which can be easily transmitted through a jump drive. Likewise, users that put personal information as copies of their banking information onto them can have this valuable data spread without their knowledge. Worse yet, an owner of a smart device might leave it behind anywhere like a restaurant or a classroom. Hence, whoever finds it has access to whatever is stored on the device.
Finding a smart device that someone had lost may seem nice, but isn’t so. It is best to leave it be since you don’t know what types of files are stored on it. The minute you plug in a stray USB drive into your computer, malware might instantly be spread from the stick onto your PC’s hard drive. However, purchasing a new smart device can save you time and money in the long run.
Ways of Making Smart Devices Safe
If you choose to use the aforementioned portable devices, there are ways you can make them safe:
- Protect each unit with a strong password and change it periodically.
- Download the free Avast Android security software.
- Refrain from downloading games and applications that don’t disclose what they will have access to on your device.
- Download from trusted sources only.
- Scan the device periodically for malware. This can be done with the antivirus software on your PC.
- Get the ability to trace your stolen or lost mobile device.
- If possible, install a local firewall on the device.
- Adjust the idle time-out to lock the unit when not in use.
- Never “jailbreak” the device (removing manufacturer’s preset limitations) since doing so can make the unit even more vulnerable to malware.
- If this unit supports tracking, activate its GPS (global positioning system). This will enable you to find the unit if misplaced.
- Encrypt your network when using Wi-Fi, get access through a VPN connection, or surf in a traffic-encrypted environment.
- Set Bluetooth devices to “non-discoverable” mode.
- Enable tablet security by utilizing AES 128/256-bit encryption and have a backup copy of all data stored on another secured unit.
- Use a remote-wiping feature on a unit if you should lose it.
Business Practices for Portable Device Security
Because keeping business computers and networks clean of malware is crucial, organizations must employ the following practices:
- Never allow employees to use business smart devices for personal use.
- Establish and inform workers of security and acceptable-use policies and tell them to report misplaced units immediately.
- Restrict use of smart devices to as few of types as possible.
- Have all employees use strong passwords.
- Prohibit workers from plugging personal devices into business computers.
- Use only a secure VPN connection to access the business network.
Using portable devices is very convenient, trendy, and strongly compelling. Still, you must remember to take precautions and safeguard you unit(s) in the methods state earlier. Before even activating them for the first time, read the owner’s manual thoroughly and become familiar with the device security features built into your new unit. You’ll be glad you did later.