October is Cyber Security Awareness Month.  We all have a key role to play in keeping our home computers and personal devices secure online. We also play a big part in keeping our businesses safe from cyber threats.

This week we’re talking about protecting your computers and mobile devices.

Risks to mobile phones, especially smartphones and Bluetooth-enabled phones, are becoming increasingly common. Aside from the actual physical loss of your mobile phone, which could put personal information in the wrong hands, there are several ways your mobile phone can be compromised.

What are the risks for mobile devices?

  • Viruses or worms can be spread through anything you download from the Internet via your phone, by text attachments (MMS, which means multimedia messaging service) and by Bluetooth transfers.
  • Phishing by phone is another way cyber criminals scam you. They’ll send a text or email with a phone number for you to call to verify account information. They may also call you directly and ask you to enter your account number before continuing.
  • Trojan horses attached to app downloads can delete your files and record personal information you’ve entered (like a credit card number on an online shopping site). Do not install apps that seem to require an unusual amount of information from you.
  • An unsecure wireless network can compromise your information, including your contact list, as well as give someone else use of your data plan. Using your 3G connection is a safer option.
  • Mobile phones are small and can easily be stolen, potentially putting your stored usernames and passwords in the wrong hands.
  • Prompts from companies you don’t recognize may ask you to update, install or run software that could contain malicious software.
  • Text messages sent to basic phones that contain malware can shut down or completely crash your mobile phone.
  • Your mobile device could be cloned by clever criminals who copy the serial number to another phone and make fraudulent calls you’re charged for.

What you can do to minimize your risk:

  1. Set up your phone with a strong password that you change regularly. This will protect your information not just from hackers, but from someone who finds your phone if you lose it.
  2. Only connect by Wi-Fi with trusted, password-protected networks, and turn off settings that automatically search for Wi-Fi networks. Hackers lurk on unprotected networks.
  3. When downloading an app, take a good look at the permissions, and don’t just click “allow” to everything. What appears to be a fun app may in fact be a ‘Trojan Horse’, which gives a hacker access to your system once you install it.
  4. Before you click on something, think seriously about where it came from. Viruses and worms can infect your mobile phone from anything you download, from text attachments and Bluetooth transfers.

Signs your mobile phone has been compromised:

  • You receive charges to your phone bill you don’t recognize.
  • There are emails and text messages in the sent folder that you didn’t send.
  • The user interface has changed meaning the appearance of your phone or the way you perform functions has been altered.

If you think your mobile device has been infected with malicious software, call your manufacturer or service provider.

The above notice is from the Government of Canada’s Get Cyber Safe campaign, in support of National Cyber Security Awareness Month.