CIRA's latest Cyber Security Tip Sheet is about Mobile Devices. Our mobile devices have become such an integral part of our lives. With the constant technological innovations being introduced in the market, may of us assume that our devices have greater security and privacy capabilities compared to laptops and desktops. As a result, we start exercising less caution when using our phones, which can lead to serious security and privacy issues.
The tip sheet provided by CIRA goes over risks we encounter through our use of mobile devices and how we can protect ourselves from these threats.
Risks to Using Mobile Devices
Because mobile devices are so convenient, they are often the main tool we use to do both our work and our personal errands online. Unfortunately, this means that the device is typically packed with personal information related to the device owner. You don't need to be a hacker to get information off of someone's mobile device, either: people leave phones and tablets in cabs, airplanes and restaurants every day, and according to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner fewer than half of Canadians password-lock their devices or tighten their privacy settings. Once someone has access to your data they can use it to access your online accounts, buy things with your credit cards or even pretend to be you online.
The convenience of buying things on a phone or tablet--whether it's apps for the device or
merchandise in an online shop--can lead us to make purchases without thinking about them. As well, many game apps--especially those for children--encourage users to spend real money to advance in the game, and if a parent isn't careful kids may be able to use their credit card information. Finally, just using the phone can cost an unexpected amount as the price of making calls, sending texts and surfing the Web through mobile devices adds up.
Even if you don't use your phone to store personal information, it's gathering data all the time about who and where you are. Many legitimate apps will communicate to your phone's device ID and your location to the app's developers or to third parties. Most often, this data gathering is spelled out in terms of service you agree to when you download it, but some invasions of privacy are done secretly and maliciously--including spyware that allows someone to turn on your device's camera or microphone remotely, even when it's is turned off.
How You Can Protect Yourself
Make sure you understand what features are on a mobile phone before buying it for yourself or for a child. Find out what privacy and security options a device has and activate them; even better, find out before you buy a device which has the best security tools. Before downloading an app, read the Terms of Service to find out what data it's gathering about you.
Set Spending Limits
To make online purchases, use prepaid or low-limit credit cards to keep from spending too much. If you share a device with someone else, make sure that your credit card information is out of the device's memory each time you finish an online purchase. Teach small children that purchases in games cost real money and that they need to ask for permission before buying anything. For children and teens, get a plan that either sets hard limits for texting (so that once they reach their limit they can't send texts, instead of paying an increased price) or get an unlimited texting plan.
For the full Cyber Security Tip Sheet for Mobile Devices, click here.
See previous tip sheets by CIRA..