Keep Ur Mitts Off My Mobile!

According to an article on Mashable, there’s a restaurant in LA trying to promote a comfortable, home-like atmosphere by giving customers 5% off the price of their meals if they don’t use their mobile phones at the table.

Sounds reasonable, right? Well, maybe not so much.

See, there’s a catch. You reportedly have to give up your phone at the door, and then get it back after your meal. That, in my opinion, is a bad deal at any price.

Here’s why.

It only takes minutes for someone to install malware on your phone.

Now, I’m not saying that the people who own that restaurant would do that. In fact, they’re probably really nice people who are trying to make their restaurant a more pleasant and civilized place to be– a place free from people incessantly chatting on their phones, and driving other patrons crazy.

What I’m trying to do, is make the point that hacking your phone can be done quickly and easily by someone who wants to steal information or spy on you. So, as a result; you should be very careful about who you allow to have access to it.

Mobile malware is a growing threat; tripling in the first half of this year, and amounting to nearly 13 million phones infected worldwide, according to Chinese security vendor NetQuin.  Network World  reported that NetQuin  found a major spike in mobile malware infections in June–3.7 million cases that month alone.

Meanwhile, TechCrunch reports that US-based software security vendor, McAfee found a 1,200% increase in mobile malware infections in the first quarter of this year–mostly targeting the Android mobile platform, which is the most popular in the world.

However, other mobile platforms, such as Apple’s iOS, are also vulnerable to attack.

In addition, someone doesn’t have to actually even have to have  your phone in their hands, to get their hands on your private information. All it takes is your phone number. Once someone has that; they can target you with “smishing”  or try to trick you with phone scams.

Smishing attacks use infected SMS messages (texts), which download malicious code to your phone. Even iPhones, which are generally more resistant to mobile malware than Android, have been found to have security flaws that can open the door to SMS attacks.

Some hacks penetrated iPhone defenses because the phones had been “jailbroken“. When someone “jailbreaks” the Apple mobile operating system (IOS) (which runs on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch); they remove certain security restrictions imposed by Apple. Once that happens; the phone’s user can then download software from vendors other than those in the Apple App Store.

But, altering the in-built security of any phone–not just an iPhone–makes it more vulnerable to attack. This topic was addressed during cybersecurity hearings on Capitol Hill earlier this year.

So, what’s the big deal?

Well, the thing about mobile malware, is that it can be a lot like herpes. Once you’ve got it; you can’t get rid of it, unless you get rid of your mobile phone. Just re-setting your device won’t necessarily fix it, and mobile carriers do not always have the proper tools to fix it for you.

The bottom line is that you can’t completely protect yourself against any kind of malware; whether it’s on your phone, or on your computer. Experts say the only thing you can do  manage your risk, and try to be as safe as possible.

As a result, managing your risk should not include handing your phone over to strangers just because they offer you a discount on food or anything else. It only takes minutes to hack a phone; but it takes much longer to repair the damage once its done.

It can also be very expensive. Whether you’re the victim of some sort of financial scam, or  just inconvenienced by having to get a new phone; it can cost you a lot of time and money to fix the problem. Have you ever tried to get out of a mobile phone contract? If so, you know how hard it can be.

Here’s a tip: If you ever need to do so because of problems with your phone or phone carrier; contest the charges on your phone bill in writing, and file a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). That will definitely get the attention of your mobile carrier, and they may not make you pay the early termination fee for cancelling your contract.

So, if somebody other than the authorized repair guy at your mobile carrier asks for your phone; cop an old Nancy Reagan slogan, and “just say no”.

For more information; check out these recent articles.

Ars Technica: How To Harden Your Smartphone Against Stalkers: Android Edition

Network World: iPhone SMS bug Said To Be A Serious Threat

FBI: New E-Scams & Warnings, FBI Cybersecurity: Threats To The Financial Sector

CNET: Jailbreakers Beware: iPhone Malware Evolves Rapidly

McAfee: A Global Initiative To Fight Cybercrime

FCC: File A Complaint Against Your Mobile Carrier


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s