Cyber and Mobile

Are Mobile Devices the New Frontier in Cyberattacks?

By DeVry University

Hackers are always looking for the next big scam, and the rise in mobile device use is offering them the perfect opportunity to get their hands on your private information. By the year 2019, Statista estimates that more than five billion people will be using smartphones. That's five billion opportunities for hackers to do their thing.

In this age of advanced technology, it isn't uncommon to be attached to your phone morning, noon and night — and criminals have taken notice. If you want to protect your mobile devices, becoming aware of just how vulnerable you are is the first step.

How Your Phone Can Be Used Against You

You wouldn't dream of intentionally giving your bank account or login information to a criminal, but you could easily do just that without even knowing it. Cybercriminals are constantly devising new ways to get your sensitive information, and your mobile phone is a perfect gateway. Some of the biggest mobile threats include:

  • Malicious Apps: In late 2015, mobile malware for Android started appearing on phones and tablets, underscoring the danger of downloading apps from an untrusted developer. What seems like a harmless application could actually be installing spyware, trojans and phishing software to steal your login info to your bank account, track your activities or generate premium services later charged to your wireless bill.
  • Mobile Ransomware: Imagine having to pay a virtual kidnapper to release all of your mobile files. It can happen! You're just one click away from accidentally opening an infected attachment and having your mobile device locked by hackers who only release it after you pay an exorbitant fee.
  • Spreading the Infection: You're sitting in your favorite coffee shop browsing your smartphone while enjoying your latte. Little do you know, a thief who’s sharing the same Wi-Fi is nearby and can use an infected mobile device to directly gain access to everything on your phone. Infected devices that are using a Wi-Fi network can connect to other devices on the network to spread viruses.

How to Know If You've Been Compromised

Evolving technology and the mobile revolution are opening the floodgates to waves of cybercrime. In many cases, you won't know that your mobile device has been attacked until you discover someone has used your information to open a new credit card. Knowing what to look for increases the likelihood that you can identify an attack before it's too late. Common signs include:

  • Websites look different: In some attacks, websites suddenly change their appearance.
  • Strange apps appear: If you notice an app that you don't remember installing, hackers might have gained full access to your mobile device. This malware can do everything from spying on your activity to completely taking over your mobile device.
  • Sudden changes occur: Some of the less-sophisticated malicious apps leave telltale signs of their presence, such as your battery suddenly decreasing or your phone seeming warmer for no reason.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Mobile Devices

You probably haven’t given mobile security a second thought. Now that you know about the real threat hackers pose to all forms of mobile technology, security should become a priority. "The biggest cybersecurity threat to mobile devices is keeping the operating system up to date with all the latest security patches and upgrades installed," says Dr. James Karagiannes, Professor of Engineering & Information Sciences at DeVry University.

Karagiannes also notes, "Vigilance is everything and users need to be prepared to sacrifice some level of convenience for security." So, what can you do to help protect yourself? Take action now by:

  • Avoiding jailbreaking devices: As tempting as it might be, when you jailbreak — a process that's essentially hacking your own mobile device to speed up the processor or run unauthorized apps and programs — you leave your device wide open to malware.
  • Staying updated: Minimize threats by running the latest version of your device’s operating system and only downloading apps from dedicated app stores.
  • Using a strong password: Choose one that isn't easy to guess, has at least six digits and mixes letters and numbers.
  • Installing security apps: Look for reputable mobile apps like Bitdefender, Norton, Avast or Phone Security Pro for extra protection from cyberattacks.

Cyber Defenders Wanted

Do you want to be on front lines to help prevent cyberattacks? Thanks to the rise in mobile device usage and the spread of evolving technology throughout all industries, cybersecurity jobs are booming. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of information security analysts is expected to grow 18 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than average for all occupations.” In addition, the BLS notes that demand for these positions is expected to be “very high.”  

If you want to take an even more active role in protecting mobile devices from attacks, developing your skills in cybersecurity and system architecture can help you stay ahead of the curve — and the hackers. For students interested in working in cybersecurity, Karagiannes suggests being patient as you gain experience. He also notes, "I would suggest going to work for smaller organizations which often leads to faster advancement and more experience quickly. They generally do not have the resources to have layers of employees and therefore, offer more responsibilities to entry level employees."

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