How the Proliferation of Mobile Devices is Impacting Consumer Security

Mobile technology is the new frontier for fraudsters.

Most of us don’t protect our smartphones or tablets—and the private information they contain—anywhere near as well as we do our wallets and PCs (even though most us would rather lose our wallets vs. our smartphones). Even the simple safeguard of a four-digit password is too much work for 62% of smartphone users, and 32% of users save their login information on their device.* It’s a simple formula for crime: no password + instant access to online accounts = fraud, identity theft and privacy loss. Maybe that’s why mobile phones were targeted in more than 40% of all robberies in New York City and 38% of all robberies in Washington, D.C. last year.**

Even without getting their hands on your device, hackers can get into and remotely control almost any mobile device, and it is frighteningly easy. Malicious software can be disguised as a picture or audio clip. When you click a link or open an attachment, malware installs on your device. Unlike early PC malware, it doesn’t ask your permission, and your device is figuratively in their hands.

How are mobile devices changing the game?

Criminals know that your mobile device is an indispensable extension of your life. Your smartphone or tablet stores some of your most private conversations and confidential information. It is your phonebook, email account, family photo album, social media connection and even your wallet, all rolled into one device. Chances are, if you own a smartphone, it is connected to your money or financial accounts in some way. For many, it’s like your right hand (or, in my case, left hand).

That smartphone is always on and always with you—connecting you to, creating, and storing important and often confidential information. That information has value to other people. Just like on your PC, software can track and record social network activities, online search behavior, chats, instant messages, emails, websites, keystrokes and program usage. It can also record bank account numbers, passwords, answers to security questions, text messages, GPS locations and more.

While it builds on the experiences of the PC, the mobile game is different. It’s more sophisticated because there is more information, and it is more fast-paced and dynamic. Things change, and they aren’t what they appear to be. You need to get out some new tools and learn some new tricks to win this one.

Protecting your devices is essential to protecting your identity. But no longer is it enough to just protect your PC with antivirus; you need to protect all your devices. Invest in a comprehensive security solution like McAfee LiveSafe™ service that includes antivirus but also protects the identity and data of you and your kids on ALL your devices.

* Javelin Strategy and Research, “Identity Fraud Rose 13 Percent in 2011 According to New Javelin Strategy & Research Report”


Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  (Disclosures)