Smartphone theft has surged in recent years to become a scourge of everyday life, and Kaspersky Lab is warning that this Christmas users need to get protected if they want to save themselves from financial loss and the holiday blues.
A host of new smartphones are set to be exchanged as gifts across Europe this week, from the iPhone 5S to the Google Nexus 5. That means more people will be walking the streets holding expensive devices, and crooks will be on the lookout for easy targets. Users need to be especially careful when on holiday this Christmas, as it’s a time of year when one can easily forget about keeping their devices safe.
The mobile malware threat is getting ever more concerning as well. In the second quarter of this year, Kaspersky Lab found 29,695 new mobile malware modifications – malicious code samples that cyber criminals use to infect legitimate mobile applications. Given the amount of Christmas-themed apps out there, and how exploitative crooks are, expect some to contain malicious code.
With all this in mind, here are some tips from Kaspersky Lab experts to keep your smartphone, new or old, away from threats this Christmas:
1) Get mobile AV software: The virus problem on PCs was not taken seriously until it became a major problem. When it comes to smartphones and tablets, users should take precautions to prevent data thieves getting a head start. Mobile protection solutions are imitating their larger-scale PC counterparts. Real-time protection, on-demand and scheduled antivirus scans, automatic updates and blocking of dangerous network connections, as well as firewalls to protect against hacker attacks, are now standard.
2) Invest in enhanced theft protection: Users can have certain features of their smartphones blocked, their memory cards wiped, their phones located via GPS and the phone numbers of any new SIM cards transmitted to them. Once their smartphones have been blocked, users can automatically have instructions for honest finders displayed on the screens.
3) Encrypt your mobile: Using fully encrypted data will also prevent private photos and videos from falling into the wrong hands. Alternatively, security programs like Kaspersky Internet Security for Android can provide targeted protection for personal information. Addresses and phone numbers marked as “private” are removed from call and contact lists. This contact information also remains hidden when SMS messages or calls are received from these numbers.
4) Backup: Whether travelling this Christmas or not, backup your phone data. The software you will need to do this is either included with your mobile or available from the manufacturer’s website.
5) Keep an eye on your phone: It seems like simple advice, but many appear to be flouting it. According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics in 2011/12, the most common type of offence involving mobile phone theft happened when the phone was not in the owner’s possession at the time it was stolen. When on holiday, don’t leave it out on the restaurant table, in your hotel room, or in your car.
6) PIN protection: Keep your mobile’s PIN protection activated. If your phone is stolen, this function will prevent the thief from making calls at your expense – at least immediately. Owners of Android phones must enable their phone’s lock function, while iPhone owners should activate the PIN code.
7) Careful what you download: Adware and malware have found their way into major app stores, especially Google Play. Check reviews before you download and check the permissions of the application, just in case the app has the ability to reach into your contacts book or make off with other data you’d rather not share.
8) Filing a police report: If your smartphone is stolen, file a police report as soon as possible. Take your mobile’s “passport” with you to the local police station. This should include a hotline number for your service provider, your customer number, your phone number, your SIM card number and your 15-digit IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity number; the “serial number” for your mobile) – a particularly important piece of evidence if the thief if later apprehended. Tip: You’ll find your phone’s IMEI on the original packaging or underneath your battery. On many phones it can also be displayed by entering *#06# on the keypad.
9) SIM locking: Locking a SIM can help in the event of a theft too. Call your phone provider’s hotline and have it locked immediately. You should also send written confirmation of your request to your mobile phone provider as soon as possible for good measure. Let the hotline know that you’d like written confirmation of the time and date the SIM card was locked. This will serve as evidence that any calls placed after the SIM card was locked were not made by you.
About Kaspersky Lab
Kaspersky Lab is the world’s largest privately held vendor of endpoint protection solutions. The company is ranked among the world’s top four vendors of security solutions for endpoint users*. Throughout its more than 16-year history Kaspersky Lab has remained an innovator in IT security and provides effective digital security solutions for large enterprises, SMBs and consumers. Kaspersky Lab, with its holding company registered in the United Kingdom, currently operates in almost 200 countries and territories across the globe, providing protection for over 300 million users worldwide. Learn more at www.kaspersky.co.uk.
* The company was rated fourth in the IDC rating Worldwide Endpoint Security Revenue by Vendor, 2012. The rating was published in the IDC report “Worldwide Endpoint Security 2013–2017 Forecast and 2012 Vendor Shares (IDC #242618, August 2013). The report ranked software vendors according to earnings from sales of endpoint security solutions in 2012