Can you trust your Smartphone?

Monday 14th, March 2011 / 13:00 Written by
Can you trust your Smartphone?

The phone is smart, but the users need some assistance in getting smarter. The Smartphone is, as its name suggests, extremely intelligent not just with the applications it facilitates, but also with the false impression of security it gives to its users.

[ad#ga-cbox-right]Smartphone users are very vaguely sentient of the risks their devices pose to the information they put on it or transfer through it. This was proved by a survey of 1,600 smartphone owners from across UK, France, Spain, Italy and Germany; by a security firm Kaspersky. It established that 27 percent of the participants were “highly concerned” about security on their devices.

According to the 1,600 people who took the survey; nearly one-third kept sensitive information like bank account PINs, e-mail passwords, identification numbers on their smartphones, which made their finances vulnerable to outside infiltration. Of these users, only about half were aware of anti-virus software for their devices, and a measly 10 people actually used the software.

This is seen in the light of the recent malware attack on Android. Google identified 50 apps that were secretly pushing malware onto phones with the apps downloaded, and those security breaches were leading to further breaches. Google has taken prompt action by removing the apps from its Android market and using a remote “kill switch” that allowed forcible removal of downloaded apps from infected handsets. Google has further said that the defenselessness the apps exploited can be fixed with the Android 2.2.2 update, but Android has not allowed every user to get an updated version, thus raising questions about the clean nature of the apps and the safety of the device.

Meanwhile, Google is also working on a software patch to fill the gap and is sending out emails to affected users to help them whatever way it can. Although Google can create the patch, it cannot distribute it; as that job belongs to the carriers and handset manufacturers, which in a way implies that the patch might not reach every user, thus leaving a possibility for another malfunction. To add to Android’s helplessness is the open nature of the Market, which is a selling point in comparison to Apple’s iOS platform for the iPhone and iPad, but leaves the Market open to such attacks.

All major service providers seem to be sailing in the same susceptible boat. Apple’s iPhone is no safer than Google’s Android. Apple does screen its apps, but it would be a lie if it claims to thoroughly screen the 350,000 apps in the iTunes App Store so as to guarantee complete safety and absence of malicious apps.

On the other hand, Android users are at an advantage because if they pay attention to the apps that are accessing the Internet and other systems on their phones, they can prevent an attack on their device. Any app on Android has to take the user’s permission and specify what it intends to access, and these items are enumerated in a push notification. The user has the opportunity to vet the app and prevent it from accessing unnecessary and unrelated apps. For example, a wallpaper app does not need to access the internet or interfere with the gaming app. This kind of screening does not take a lot of research to understand and practice. This is the most basic protection the user can ensure when they use any app, and it will restrict the reach of the malware. Any anti-virus software, for these devices, will have a pretty limited capability, especially while trying to deal with viruses that haven’t even been identified or encountered yet.

Users and creators need to make the “smart” in smartphones more bankable and need to strengthen their security softwares so as to ensure maximum protection to user and device.

About the author

Deeptaman Mukherjee is one of those rare names in the Indian blogosphere, who pursues blogging as his hobby. In the 4 years of his blogging experience, he has worked with some of India's top blogs. He presently blogs at My Portable World and Tech Buzz Online. For any engagements or just to say a Hi, do get in touch with him at Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn. Know more about him, here.

View all articles by Deeptaman Mukherjee
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