Mobile Security Threats and Crimes
Mobile Security Threats and Crimes
Mobile Security Threats and Crimes
The means through which we interact with our friends, family, and go about our daily business is quickly changing to embrace online technology. Changes experienced in mobile multimedia and mobile computing resonates with developers, managers, engineers, and strategists while it also determines the interaction and behavior of the final users. Previously, people had to endure long hours of waiting as they used slow computers to accomplish various tasks such as communication. Currently, technology has undergone groundbreaking changes that facilitate fast and convenient execution of tasks and communication. Devices such as the Tablet and Smartphones have introduced more people to the computer age compared to other devices. However, despite the various benefits associated with this technology, one can still not ignore the negative effects posed from criminal activities that take advantage of this technology (Drexel University, 2013).
Primarily, current advanced mobile devices are fitted with operating systems and are capable of running a number of application software also referred to as apps. Most of these devices are also equipped with GPS, Wi-Fi, and capabilities that permit connections to Bluetooth capable devices like microphone headsets, automobiles, and the internet. A common characteristic with current mobile devices is their media or camera player features for music or video files. The Smartphone is one advanced mobile device that has had a major influence on computer mobile technology.
Primarily, the Smartphone mobile device is built with an operating system with more advanced connectivity and capability compared to a feature phone. The first Smartphones applied the features of a mobile phone and personal digital assistant or PDA. Later models combined the functions of low-end digital cameras, GPS navigation, pocket video cameras and compact digital cameras form a device with multiple uses. Most modern Smartphones also have web browsers and high-resolution touch screens (Kaneshige, 2013). Wi-Fi and mobile broadband provides high-speed access to data. Recently, the fast developments of mobile commerce and mobile application markets have facilitated the adoption of smartphones.
The operating systems fitted in modern smartphones uses Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Window Phone, Samsung’s Bada, RIM’s blackberry, and more. Typically, different smartphones models can be installed with these operating systems. They can also operate with multiple operating system upgrades. Additionally, smartphones are also equipped with the feature of a QWERTY keypad. This implies that the keys are arranged in a similar to that of a computer keyboard. This is different to the typical numeric keypad where numbers and letters are arranged in their proper sequence. This keypad can be in the form of a touch screen or physical keys.
According to McFerran (2013), the tablet or tablet computer is another example of a one-piece mobile computer. These devices all come with a touch screen where a stylus or finger gesture is the means of control. However, certain tablets are supplemented by physical buttons in a virtual keyboard that can be hidden. Tablets come in a variety of sizes with a screen width longer than seven inches. These features differentiate them from functionally similar digital personal assistants, or smartphones. Even though tablet computers are self-contained, it is possible to connect them to a physical keyboard. A number of hybrid tablets come with detachable keyboards that can be concealed by a slide joint or swivel joint, exposing the screen only for touch operation.
The current tablets have an operating system different to that of the traditional desktop. One major trait of tablet computers, different to traditional desktops, is that majority of mobile applications can be acquired through the smartphones’ app store if they use a similar operating system. The Apple Ipad is in terms of ratings the most successful computer tablet. It was released in 2010 along with other devices such as Samsung’s galaxy tab. Typically, these devices came with natural user interfaces such as Bluetooth keyboards and external USB, and flash-memory.
Mini-laptops are yet another category of mobile computers that have revolutionized the age of technology. Business professionals, students and other people desire a small computer that is convenient to carry. Other than small size, such computer needs to be powerful enough to perform tough personal and regular tasks (McFerran, 2013). These needs prompted leading computer companies to design and manufacture mini-laptops. These devices such as Sony’s VAIO have a slim and small design that can allow it to fit in a purse or pocket. Additionally, the small weight adds on to its carrying convenience.
The main features include a built in camera, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, broadband connectivity and high-speed processor and memory. In terms of functionality, mini-laptops are capable of browsing the web, checking emails, in addition to other functions seen in desktop computers. Regardless of their small size, mini-laptops are fitted with keyboards that are not cramped. However, if the user finds the device’s keyboard still not friendly, it is possible to connect to it an external keyboard and mouse using USB ports. One major limitation of mini-laptops is their high price and small screens.
With the current advances in technology, we should then expect the future to hold even better and more efficient mobile computer devices. One such device is the Google glass by Google. This device is a head-worn display computer that is being designed to display data in a hands-free format similar to that of smartphones. This ability is intended to allow the user to make internet interactions through voice commands. While the frames of the device do not have fitted lenses, Google Company is thinking about engaging a partnership with sunglass retailers like Warby Parker or Ray-ban. The explorer edition is not designed for people that wear prescription glasses. Nevertheless, Google maintains that Glass will be designed with lenses and frames matching the prescription of the wearer.
Google Company will be responsible for the entire design and production and is known to have worked on other future projects such as driverless cars. Even though the device design is not a new idea, it has drawn significant attention from the media due to Google’s backing and that it is slimmer than other designs. The demo on the device reveals a pair of normal looking sunglasses where the head-up display has been put in place of the lenses (McFerran, 2013). In early 2013, the company released a demo video that displayed in first person the various experience of the device. Currently, Google is working on models to be incorporated with prescription lenses.
Ultimately, major players around the players such as Samsung, Nokia, Apple, Motorola, and other manufacturers are thinking to or are working on new and improved mobile computers as a means of competing with each other to conquer the market. It is not possible for one manufacturer to rule the mobile industry. Nevertheless, company’s come up with ideas that reduce or shorten human burdens will gain a competitive edge.
Threat to Security
The Smartphone and cell phone industry have seen rapid development in the United States and across the world. Gone are the days when the phone was used as a voice device. Currently, cell phones have been designed to have PC features. Even though users of this technology are aware of the basic rules of security that govern PC’s, they are unaware that the same insecurity risks apply to mobile computers as well. One major threat to user’s security is malware and smishing. Smishing is a new security risk that combines phishing trickery frauds and the availability and ease of text messaging. Malware, on the other hand, implies malicious software programmed to gather sensitive information, distort computer operations, or acquire access to the computer’s private systems.
In this case, smishing is a security threat that involves sending a legitimate looking offer from an interesting source like a bank through text messaging. This message may inform the victim of an urgent need to discuss a bank matter. The instructions in the text may require the victim to call a certain number deemed toll free, and reveal their bank account password and number to an automated response system. Because people are more aware of suspicious looking emails than messages, smishing then offers malware perpetrators with an easy means of achieving their objectives.
The practice of jail breaking is another means through which the security of a device can be compromised. Primarily, jail breaking involves altering the operating system of a device by removing its access restrictions to the root and file system. This action leaves the phone system vulnerable in a number of ways. One of them involves adding software that has not passed through the inspection process of the manufacturer. This makes it easier for the device to acquire malware.
The Wi-Fi technology that comes with these devices also presents security problems. In this case, the device may be left vulnerable owing to security breaches resulting from rogue access points (Wiatrak, Cook, and Olsen, 2013). In organizations, for example, if an employee plugs a wireless router to an insecure switch port, the whole network is normally rendered exposed to users in the signal’s range. Additionally, if the user connects a wireless interface to a computer through a USB port, it can provide access to confidential materials through the created network breach. Additionally, even though the device maintains WiFi passwords, it is possible for malware to glean this and allow the hacking of the router.
Vulnerabilities in apps and devices are yet another security concern associated with this technology. While previous mobile devices were not incorporated with security passwords, currents devices have addressed this problem. Those with the technical capability support passwords such as PIN authentication. However, studies show that users of these devices do not apply these passwords. In instances where they are applied, they can be easily bypassed due to use of easy PINS such 0000 or 1234. This leaves the device vulnerable. Additionally, wireless transmissions such as e-mails are not always encrypted when sent (Wiatrak, Cook, and Olsen, 2013). This is the same case with most apps. Failure to encrypt this data makes it vulnerable for interception.
Additionally, these devices do not come with security to filter malicious spyware and applications. Additionally, the users on most occasions do not install security software as required. Moreover, certain applications have negative effects such as depleting the battery life. On certain occasions, attackers use applications to spread malware such as spyware, Trojans, spam, and viruses to lure users into revealing confidential information such as passwords. In addition, these devices do not manage internet connections. When the phone is connected in a large network area, a hacker can gain access to the phone through the insecure port.
Mobile Devices Used to Commit Crime
Technology has provided an easy and quick means for stalkers to harass and monitor their victims. When technologies such as mobile devices or social networks are used to stalk or harass people, the consequences can be deadly or even devastating for the victims. Hence, stalking and harassment using mobile devices and other forms of technology are taken seriously. Stalkers are obsessed with the lifestyles of others. They are obsessed with what the victim has been doing, who they are with, where they are going, and how they feel. They will go to large extents and use all sorts of tools to know what they want about the victim. In this case, digital stalking and harassment simplifies the process of getting the victim’s information from family and friends or even input software on the victim’s computer or mobile (Ruggiero and Foote, 2011).
Even if a person commits these actions without the knowledge that the victim fears for his or her safety or close people, then such behaviors amount criminal offences. A person may be stalking without necessarily damaging any property or hurting anyone. The law is hence established to protect people from physical, emotional, and psychological harm (Scheck, 2012). Primarily, stalking begins with activities that may not be dangerous but are often annoying. In many cases, the conduct is legal and even acceptable socially when it is an isolated incident. However, repetition of such behavior may alarm the victim. Behaviors such as sending letters or gifts may become scary if done against the victim’s wishes or repeatedly.
Other than stalking and harassment, mobile devices may be used to commit other crimes such as underage pornography (Drexel University, 2013). Since 1988, child pornography has skyrocketed by 1500 percent (Ruggiero and Foote, 2011). Even more pornography is being exposed to these children because of new mobile phone designs with internet capabilities. The major rise in child pornography offences is because of internet uses according to a report conducted on the matter. Experts fear that this crime will skyrocket with the increased access to the internet thus making it more difficult to combat. It is possible that these phones will be used to view child pornography sites by paedophiles, take child sex picture, or even engage in trade of such material.
Paedophiles are known to use internet anonymity to terrorize children. However, some have still managed to be caught. Even with tracking devices, mobile phone use is even more anonymous. The improved technology in this generation provides paedophiles to opportunities of accessing child porn (TrendMicro, 2013). Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that increased access to the internet has led to a rise in sexual abuse of children. For example, in 2007, 752 child porn perverts were cautioned or charged compared. With the current increased access to internet technology, it is expected that these numbers continue.
Blackmail and money laundering is yet another means through which mobile devices are a means of committing crime. The main mobile device aspect that facilitates these crimes is that of anonymity. In this case, the phone is used to make unjustified threats with a view of causing loss making a gain unless a particular demand is satisfied. In this case, blackmailing leads to money laundering where the victim is compelled to part with a certain amount of money because of coercion. These threats may involve physical harm, threat of taking money or property, and threat of prosecution in a court of law
Protecting Mobile Devices
With all the risks associated with advanced mobile devices, there are a number of methods of mitigating them. The first involves using the device to store necessary items and information. This would reduce the risk of losing personal items in case the phone’s OS crashes due to malware or prevent the wrong people from accessing such items. As seen previously, the WiFi and other wireless connections such as Bluetooth can leave the data in the phone vulnerable. Hence, it is important to engage in necessary measures to protect this data through concrete PINs. Additionally, it is also necessary to make correct configurations of the devices. This should also be followed up by making necessary installations designed to prevent malware such as spyware, Trojans, spam, and viruses.
Other method of securing mobile devices from risks involves encrypting sensitive information. In this case, care should be taken to use strong encryption codes to prevent easy access by hackers. Moreover, there is need to backup critical information in other modes of storage such as the PC. Even with the PC, it is important to used strong encrypted passwords to prevent unauthorized access (Olzak, 2008). As stated earlier, attackers intend to access user information using normal looking internet sites or app downloads. However, these sites are fitted with malware and viruses. Therefore, care should be taken before opening or following any internet link. Finally, it is important to exercise responsibility and always leave such devices attended. Stalkers may take unattended phones to seize information on family and friends.
Current reports suggest that security threats to mobile devices come in the form of malware such as spyware, Trojans, spam, and viruses to persuade users into revealing confidential information such as bank account passwords (TrendMicro, 2013). These methods are becoming most common for crooks since people are migrating from the use of PCs towards tablets and smartphones. Ultimately, more people are under the risk of data theft and identity exposure since most of their information is stored in these devices. With this technology, malicious people are taking advantage to commit crimes and terrorize people. Some of these behaviors include stalking and harassment, underage pornography, blackmail and money laundering.
With all the problems that have emanated from mobile device threats and crimes, it is important for users of this technology to be enlightened on the various means of mitigating such risks. Some of these methods include using strong encrypted passwords, correct configuration of devices, and data protection over insecure wireless locations, and storage of necessary items in the devices. Ultimately, even with the expected advancement of mobile device technology in the future, it is expected that the increased benefits will be countered by increased risks that criminals will take advantage.
Drexel University. (2013). Crime & handheld computing devices. Retrieved from http://www.drexel.edu/handheldcrime/
Gerhardt, D. (2012). 3 mobile stats small businesses need to know. Retrieved from http://blogs.constantcontact.com/fresh-insights/email-on-mobile/
Kaneshige, T. (2013). The byod mobile security threat is real. Retrieved from http://www.cio.com/article/734231/The_BYOD_Mobile_Security_Threat_Is_Real
McFerran, D. (2013). Smartphones in 2023: Where is mobile technology heading? Retrieved from http://www.knowyourmobile.com/makes/19986/smartphones-2023-where-mobile-technology-heading
TrendMicro. (2013). 2012 mobile threat and security roundup. Retrieved from http://www.trendmicro.com/cloud-content/us/pdfs/security-intelligence/reports/rpt-repeating-history.pdf
Olzak, T. (2008). Five steps to protect mobile devices anywhere, anytime. Retrieved from http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/security/five-steps-to-protect-mobile-devices-anywhere-anytime/529
Ruggiero, P., and Foote, J. (2011). Cyber threats to mobile phones. Retrieved from http://www.us-cert.gov/sites/default/files/publications/cyber_threats-to_mobile_phones.pdf
Shaw, S. (2012). Ubiquitous wi-fi is coming for tablets, but security issues must be addressed. Retrieved from http://tabtimes.com/analysis/ittech-telecom-network/2012/04/26/ubiquitous-wi-fi-coming-tablets-security-issues-must-be
Scheck, J. (2012). Stalkers exploit cellphone gps. The Wall Street Journal, Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703467304575383522318244234.html
Wiatrak, B., Cook, M., and Olsen, K. (2013). 5 mobile security threats. Retrieved from http://focus.forsythe.com/articles/282/5-Mobile-Security-Threats
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