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8 Hidden Threats to Smartphone Security in 2022 and How to Avoid Them

Your phone is constantly vulnerable to abuse. What to watch out for is listed below

By Odedele BadiruPublished 6 months ago 9 min read
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Our mobile devices are now the foundation of our social, financial, and communication life, making them tempting targets for hackers.

Threat actors are always developing new ways to hack smartphones, whether you use an Apple iOS or a Google Android model.

This covers everything from common spam and harmful links shared on social media to malware that may track you, compromise your banking apps, or infect your device with ransomware.

Our mobile devices are now the foundation of our social, financial, and communication life, making them tempting targets for hackers.

Threat actors are always developing new ways to hack smartphones, whether you use an Apple iOS or a Google Android model.

This covers everything from common spam and harmful links shared on social media to malware that may track you, compromise your banking apps, or infect your device with ransomware.

The top threats to Android and iOS smartphone security in 2022

1. Physical Security

Physically protecting our mobile devices is an important security practice that many of us overlook. We are not allowed to utilize a PIN, pattern, or biometric verification like a fingerprint or retina scan because doing so leaves our handset open to hacking. Additionally, your phone could be stolen if you leave it unsecured.

Your best defense:

Your greatest line of protection is to secure your phone with a strong password or PIN, at the very least, to prevent unauthorized access to your accounts and data should it fall into the wrong hands.

2. SIM Hijacking

When consumers need to exchange their SIM and phone numbers between operators or devices, telecom companies legitimately offer a service known as SIM swapping or SIM porting. SIM hijacking, also known as SIM switching or SIM porting, is the misuse of this service.

A customer would typically phone their telecom provider and ask to switch. But an attacker can impersonate you and trick customer care agents into handing over your number by using social engineering and the personal information they learn about you, like your name, address, and contact information.

A cybercriminal will be able to divert your calls and texts to a device they possess if their attack is effective. This is significant because it also means that any two-factor authentication (2FA) codes used to secure your banking, email, and social media accounts, among others, will also end up in their possession.

Since SIM hijacking requires physical effort and data acquisition, it is typically a targeted attack. They can, however, have severe effects on your privacy and the safety of your online accounts if they are successful.

Your best defense:

Use a variety of cybersecurity best practices to protect your data so that social engineering attacks cannot use it against you. If you don't visit, think about requesting that your telecom company put a "Do not port" remark to your file.

3. Phishing and Smishing

When attackers send you phony and fraudulent messages, it is phishing. Cybercriminals try to trick you into handing up your account credentials for a bank, PayPal, social network, email, and other services in exchange for personal information, clicking on harmful links, installing and unintentionally executing malware on your computer, or other actions.

Phishing attacks on mobile devices can be sent via whatever channel a PC can, including social network posts and email. However, smishing, or phishing attempts delivered by SMS texts, can also affect mobile devices.

Whether you are using an iOS or an Android device, phishing can happen to either. All mobile devices are created equal in the eyes of fraudsters and online criminals.

Your best defense:

Is to never click links in emails or texts unless you are certain that they are legitimate.

4. Open Wi-Fi

Hotel rooms and coffee cafes both have open and insecure Wi-Fi networks. Although they are designed to provide customer service, their openness makes them vulnerable to assault.

In particular, open Wi-Fi connections could make your phone or computer vulnerable to Man-in-the-Middle (MiTM) attacks. Your information will be stolen, malware payloads will be sent to your device, and your device may be taken over if an attacker intercepts the conversation between your handset and browser.

Additionally, 'honeypot' Wi-Fi hotspots occasionally appear. These are public Wi-Fi hotspots that hackers have set up under the impression of being free and genuine locations to carry out MiTM.

Your best defense:

Avoid using public WiFi at all costs and switch to mobile networks. At the very least, think about utilizing a virtual private network if you must connect to them (VPN).

5. Surveillance, Spying, and Stalkerware

There are different types of surveillance ware, spyware, and stalkerware. Cyberattackers will utilize spyware, which is frequently generic, to steal data such as personally identifiable information and financial information.

However, surveillanceware and stalkerware are typically more individualized and focused; for instance, in the event of domestic violence, a spouse may install surveillance software on your phone to monitor your contacts, phone calls, GPS location, and who and when you are interacting with.

Your best defense:

While there is no cure-all for stalkerware or surveillanceware, you should keep an eye out for any suspicious or odd behavior on your device. An antivirus scan should take care of generic spyware. Put your physical safety first if you believe you are being watched. To locate and delete stalkerware on your phone, refer to our guide.

6. Ransomware

Both PCs and mobile devices can be affected by ransomware. Ransomware will try to encrypt your files and directories, locking you out of your phone, and then demand payment through a threatening landing page, usually in cryptocurrency. The two best examples are Kohler and Cryptolocker.

Ransomware is frequently used as a payload on rogue websites or in third-party software. For instance, you might see a pop-up asking you to download an app that might be used to encrypt your phone in a matter of minutes. This app could be anything from a software cracker to a pornographic viewer.

Your best defense:

Keep your phone's firmware up to date, turn on the basic security features of your Android or iOS device, and avoid downloading apps from sources other than certified app stores.

7. Trojans, financial malware

Although there are innumerable mobile virus variations, many are stopped in their tracks by Google and Apple's fundamental security measures. Trojans top the list of malware families, which you should be wary of.

Trojans are types of malware that are created to steal data and make money. Drink, MaliBot, and EventBot are examples of mobile variations.

Users typically download malware themselves, which may be disguised as trustworthy and benign software or service. On your phone, though, they overlay a banking app's display and collect the login information you enter.

The attacker can use this information to steal money from your bank account after it is transmitted to them. The 2FA verification codes may potentially be intercepted by some variations.

Most financial trojans target Android mobile devices. iOS variations are less common, however, strains like XCodeGhost are still around.

Your best defense:

Keep your phone's firmware up to date, turn on the basic security features of your Android or iOS device, and avoid downloading apps from sources other than certified app stores. Stop using financial apps, turn off your internet connection, do a personal check, and run an antivirus scan if you think your phone has been compromised.

8. Mobile Device Management Exploits

Solutions for mobile device management (MDM) are professional tools made for the workforce. MDM capabilities can expand a company's network security solutions and scans to every endpoint device, block harmful links and websites, and provide secure channels for employees to access corporate resources and applications.

The danger of data loss, monitoring, or hijacking applies to any mobile endpoint device, though, if the central MDM system is breached or otherwise compromised.

Your best defense:

End users lose control because of the nature of MDM systems. As a result, you cannot provide MDM compromise protection. You can, however, keep your device updated, practice good security hygiene, and avoid using personal apps or information on work computers.

How can I Safeguard my Device Physically?

The entry point to your smartphone, data, images, sensitive papers and apps is your lock screen. Therefore, maintaining its security is crucial.

Take a look at these options on Android:

a. Screen lock type: fingerprint or facial recognition biometric checks, patterns, PINs, and passwords

b. Smart lock: keeps your phone unlocked when it is in your possession, and you are in control of determining what circumstances are safe

c. Auto factory resets: Automatically destroys your phone after 15 unsuccessful unlock attempts

d. Notifications: Even when your phone is locked, you can choose which notifications to receive and what material to display.

On iOS devices, check out:

a. Passcode: Put a passcode on your device to unlock it.

b. Face ID, Touch ID: Your device can be unlocked, apps can be utilized, and payments can be made using biometrics.

c. Find my iPhone: Block, find, and track your misplaced iPhone.

d. Lockdown mode: In July, Apple released a sneak peek of its lockdown mode. The next feature, dubbed "extreme" protection for a select group of customers, would enhance security for harmful links and connections as well as wired connections when an iPhone is locked.

What signs of a malware infection should I watch out for?

If you discover that your iOS or Android device is acting strangely, you might have been hacked or have been infected with malware.

Things to be wary of include:

a. Battery life drain: Batteries lose their capacity over time, especially if you continually use high-power mobile apps or don't allow your device to go completely flat. However, if your phone suddenly becomes warm and starts to lose power very quickly, it may be that rogue apps and software are consuming your resources.

b. Unexpected behavior: If the behavior of your smartphone changes and you've just added new apps or services, something may not be right.

c. Unknown apps: Software that pops out of nowhere on your device could be spyware or spy programs that were installed without your knowledge or approval, especially if you've permitted the download of apps from unknown developers or have a jailbroken smartphone.

d. Browser changes: A clue of malicious software tampering with your device and data could be a hijacking of your browser, changes to your default search engine, pop-up advertisements on websites, or accidentally landing on pages you weren't intending to.

e. Service disruption: The threat of SIM hijacking is quite real. Typically, this is a targeted attack with a specific objective, like taking your cryptocurrencies or getting access to your online bank account. Your phone service cutting out unexpectedly is the first indication of an attack, and this shows that your phone number has been changed.

A SIM switch may be detected by a loss of signal, an inability to make calls, or a warning that your call options are limited to emergency calls only. Additionally, you might get email reminders when your account has to be reset or notifications when a new device has been added to your existing services.

cybersecurity
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About the Creator

Odedele Badiru

Odedele Badru is a freelance content marketer who promotes growth of businesses. His articles have appeared on a number of websites, including BusinessDaily, Entrepreneur. He holds both a marketing and public relations diploma and an MBA.

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