What Your iPhone or Android Is Telling ID Thieves
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- By Casey Bond
- September 8, 2011
With the rapid emergence of web-based financial technology like online banking and trading, the security of user personal information has become a top concern for both consumers and financial institutions. Computers, however, are quickly becoming the second place option for surfing the web, while the use of smartphones is exploding. Unfortunately, with this shift comes a similar one in ID theft and the ability for identity thieves and hackers to see your private data via your phone.
The Door to Smart Phone Identity Theft: Apps
The idea that a smartphone with internet access could be hacked may not seem too far-fetched, but the method by which it happens could surprise you.
One of the major features these phone have to offer–which makes owning them so appealing in the first place–is also what makes your private information more accessible: Applications.
That’s not to say all of your apps are currently putting you at risk for identity theft, but the ease in which smartphone users hit the “download” button without fully investigating exactly what it is they’re putting onto their phones should be cause for alarm.
Applications, whether it’s the Chase mobile banking app or Zombieville USA, have the potential to communicate data you’d never want to share, including personal financial data.
How Applications Make iPhone ID Theft Possible
App developers decide what types of information these programs store and how, with the ability to encrypt personal data beyond what the phone itself does. One of the major problems with applications available today is that many store sensitive information without encrypting it at all.
viaForensics, a digital forensics and security firm, recently reviewed the security behind 100 of the most popular apps to find out how well they protect users’ data.
Alarmingly, in 5 of these apps the service’s appWatchdog found transmitted personal information like age or gender, 76 percent of apps stored usernames on the devices without encryption, while 10 percent actually stored unencrypted passwords, including Netflix and LinkedIn. See the full appWatchdog findings here.
Fortunately, among the most secure were bank apps, but keep in mind that owning just one unsecured application can compromise all the data available through your mobile device–and that applies to tablet PC’s as well.
Tips for Smartphone ID Theft Protection
When it comes to the world of identity theft and hacking, it’s pretty much impossible to be immune from attack–that’s just the trade-off we make for the convenience. Despite this truth, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself, or at least catch instances of fraud before too much time elapses to reverse the effects.
- Use Different Usernames and Passwords: Many people use the same username and password for a variety of online accounts, usually just out of laziness. Think about it, though: If a hacker gets a hold of your Facebook login information, and it’s the same as your bank and credit card account, well, you see the problem. Set unique login information for all of your accounts and profiles to easily prevent this problem.
- Monitor Your Credit: Keeping an eye on your credit activity and report is incredibly important. Not only will you be aware of how your daily actions affect your financial health, but you will be alerted of suspicious or fraudulent activity right away.
- Stick to Paid Apps: There are fewer incidences of private data shared with third parties when it comes to paid apps. After all, free apps have to make money somehow, and it’s often with your personal information.
Identity theft though mobile devices isn’t occurring at the same rate it does through computers, but the thousands of new apps every day are making it much easier.
Anyone can create an app available for download through the iTunes app store or Google’s android market, which usually don’t go through a thorough review. That means it’s up to you to remain cautious about what you download and investigate the safety and credibility of an app before you add it onto your phone.