Mobile Security: The pink elephant in the room

By 19th December 2012 Company Blog

We are probably all familiar with the phrase the pink elephant; a giant creature which is ignored by everyone walking past.

 

Harder to ignore when its dancing

 

So what makes mobile security a pink elephant, blue pig, , red sheep, or some variant of exotically coloured animal? Mostly ignorance: the mobile space is still new and most users haven’t realised that a mobile phone is just like a computer and needs to be protected. In May, a report from Trend Micro said that only 20% of Android users had virus protection, the other 80% were guilty of ignoring the giant pink elephant. Many people don’t notice until something goes wrong.

 
Mobile security is much like, the pink elephant in the field, it is such a colossal issue, and so daunting to consider, that for the majority of people it becomes something to be ignored until it becomes a problem.

 
So why is mobile security so easy to ignore? A large proportion of people treat their smartphones “like a Swiss army knife”. There is nothing inherently worrying about the information these apps require – though it might be a bit embarrassing if some hacker revealed your pace per mile – what they really want is the ability to spam your friends with a phishing SMS.

 
People need to get into the mindset that their identity, destinations, actions, and contacts are a valuable commodity worth protecting; yet for most people if the elephant is charging away from them, they don’t panic until they see it turn around.
If you use your device for more than this Swiss army knife approach; if you enter your bank details into your phone; or download a home banking app you are creating a possible threat to your device. It is your bank accounts and apple accounts that are most valuable. In the case of your Apple accounts, hackers could pay for downloads and “blow out” your balance on in-game purchases.

 
If you use an un-protected mobile device you are leaving yourself open to your details being stolen and used by hackers, for whatever nefarious purpose they devise – whether it is stealing your money direct, or buying £3,000 pounds worth of smurfberries.

 

So what are the actual dangers? A Trojan is the name for an app that pretends to do one thing, and has lots of other processes running behind the scenes. Around half of Trojans send texts to premium rate lines; however, the majority of them are spyware. At the most harmless level spyware wants to know who you are, where you are and what you like.

 
More advanced spyware poses as the official app to gain access to your login information, or logs your key strokes when you log into a website. Far too many internet users use the same email/password combination for everything, so they can gain access to your entire online life. A good example of this is the fake Netflix app that looked almost identical to the real one.

 
In truth the pink elephant analogy isn’t perfect; in fact it’s more of a red herring. People are not purposefully ignoring that gargantuan mass of pinkness. Rather they are just ignorant about the topic, making it not an awkward elephant to be ignored, but something that the general public needs to be educated about rather more than they are at present.

Finbarr Begley

About Finbarr Begley

Finbarr is an Account Director at Liberty Communications.

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