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Criminals are targeting mobile phones. Are you secure?

Our lives are on our smartphones, complete with personal and confidential data. The question is, how safe is that data from cybercriminals?

The rapid growth of mobile phone usage has transformed the way we communicate, work, and access information. However, this rising dependence on mobile devices has not gone unnoticed by cybercriminals. They are increasingly targeting mobile phones to exploit vulnerabilities, steal sensitive information, and perpetrate various scams. How can you protect yourself from these cybersecurity threats?

The very attractive mobile phone

Mobile phones have become an essential part of our daily lives, with billions of users worldwide. This ubiquity presents an attractive target for cybercriminals, who can potentially reach a larger pool of victims.

Our phones contain a wealth of information, such as contacts, messages, emails, photos, and financial data, making them an appealing target for cybercriminals. By gaining access to a mobile phone, hackers can acquire valuable data for financial gain or to carry out identity theft.

Mobile phones, especially personal ones, are often less secure compared to computers. This is because they receive software updates less frequently and have weaker security measures. Unfortunately, cybercriminals take advantage of these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to these devices.

Many users are also less cautious when using mobile phones compared to their computers or laptops. They may unknowingly download malicious apps, click on phishing links, or connect to unsecured WiFi networks, making it easier for cybercriminals to carry out their attacks.

Common mobile phone scams

Here are four common cybersecurity scams to be aware of.

Phishing attacks: Cybercriminals send ‘phishing’ or fake emails that look like they are from a legitimate source, and yet they contain malicious links or attachments. Once clicked or downloaded, these can lead to the installation of malware, enabling unauthorised access to the victim’s device and personal information.

Smishing (SMS phishing): Like phishing attacks, smishing involves sending fraudulent text messages that appear to be from legitimate sources. These messages often contain links that, when clicked, direct the user to a fake website designed to steal login credentials or personal information. There will normally be a sense of urgency in these texts, such as an unpaid debt that requires urgent attention to avoid prosecution or having services cut off.

Fake apps: Cybercriminals create counterfeit versions of popular apps or games, which contain malware or spyware. Once installed, these fake apps can access sensitive information, monitor user activity, or display intrusive advertisements.

Wi-Fi eavesdropping: Public Wi-Fi networks, especially those without password protection, are a prime target for cybercriminals. They can intercept unencrypted data transmitted over these networks or set up fake WiFi hotspots to lure unsuspecting users into connecting to their malicious networks.

How to protect yourself

Most of the mobile cyber protections at hand are within your direct control. Here are a few key tactics that should become second nature.

Keep software up to date: Regularly update your mobile device’s operating system and apps to ensure that any security vulnerabilities are patched. Enable automatic updates, if available. These updates are generally in response to bugs or new malware that has been released, so the protection is very real.

Only download apps from Google Play or the Apple Store: Google Play and Apple verify apps before allowing them onto their platforms. You should still follow all other app-related advice, but avoiding apps that are not available on these two platforms is a good place to start. It’s also a good idea to search app reviews and developers before downloading anything.

Install security apps: Use reputable mobile security apps to detect and remove malware, scan for vulnerabilities, and provide real-time protection against threats.

Avoid clicking on suspicious links: Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown sources. Verify the sender’s identity before engaging with any email or text message. If there is a spelling error or anything appears slightly incorrect, delete it.

Use strong passwords: Create unique and complex passwords for all accounts and use a reputable password manager to store and manage them securely. Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible, preferably using an authenticator app rather than SMS.

Secure your Wi-Fi connections: When using public Wi-Fi networks, use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your internet traffic and protect your data from being intercepted. Avoid conducting sensitive transactions, such as online banking or shopping, on unsecured networks. At home, set a strong password for your WiFi network and keep your router’s firmware up to date.

Be aware of app permissions: Review the permissions requested by apps before installing them, and only grant access to necessary features. Regularly review and manage app permissions in your device settings to maintain control over your personal information.

Beware of social engineering: Cybercriminals often use psychological manipulation to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information or performing actions that compromise their security. Be cautious when sharing personal information online and be sceptical of unsolicited requests or offers that seem too good to be true.

Unfortunately, the reality is that we live in a world where technology has become an essential part of our lives, and the prevalence of cybercrime is a growing concern. It is important to acknowledge that nobody is entirely immune to cybercrime, and it is not just limited to large organizations. Cybercriminals are always searching for vulnerabilities and will exploit them when they find them, regardless of the size of the target. Therefore, it is essential to remain vigilant and take proactive measures to protect ourselves from cyber threats.

One effective way to safeguard against cybercrime is to partner with a trusted financial company like Sasfin. Sasfin has been providing personalized and secure financial solutions to its clients for many years. By becoming a lead with Sasfin, you will have access to a team of experts who can help you navigate the complex landscape of cybersecurity and provide you with customized solutions that fit your unique needs. With Sasfin, you can rest assured that your financial assets and personal information are in safe hands. Take the first step towards securing your financial future by becoming a Sasfin lead today

About the Author

Del van Rooyen
Chief Information Security Officer, Sasfin Holdings Limited

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