People increasingly connect to the internet outside of their homes and offices by using iPhones and other mobile devices, enjoying technological innovations and the convenience and connectedness it brings. However, Northern Illinois University’s Department of Police and Public Safety warns there are risks involving these mobile devices.
“Similar to laptops and computers, with increased frequency, mobile devices are being targeted for viruses and malicious trojans that are designed to disable or capture personal identity data,” says commander of investigations Jim Fatz.
With smartphones and other portable devices giving us the ability to conduct every day activities such as mobile banking, online shopping, teleworking, and social networking, cyber criminals are constantly looking to take advantage of unsecure wireless networks, third party applications, and texting to acquire personal information.
According to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), many of the safety practices that are used to guard home and work computers apply to portable devices as well. They include:
- Restricting access to your wireless network, by only allowing authorized users access to your network.
- Changing any pre-configured default passwords to ones that would be difficult for an outsider to guess.
- Keeping your anti-virus software updated.
- Using caution when downloading or clicking on any unknown links.
Fatz advises utilizing any and all security measures are available for mobile devices and adds, “In most cases, numeric pins are actually more secure than pattern based screen locks.”
Another potential issue with mobile devices is the distraction they may cause when driving, riding a bicycle or even walking. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, for drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones. In Illinois, it is illegal to text while driving, and in August, Governor Pat Quinn signed a law that bans the use of hand-held devices behind the wheel. That law takes effect Jan. 1, 2014.
“Too many Illinois families have suffered because of accidents that could have been prevented,” Quinn said in a statement after signing the legislation. “Anyone driving a car should be careful, responsive and alert behind the wheel.”
Mobile devices pose additional dangers as well.
“Many criminals will take advantage of mobile devices users who are not remaining situationally aware while they are talking or texting,” Fatz says. “If a person does not remain situationally aware they are at increased risk for assaults, robberies, and thefts.”