Small Business Mobile Security in a Digital World
Mobile devices have become valuable tools in today's workforce, allowing employees to work remotely, access important business files, and stay connected with colleagues and clients from anywhere. Yet, according to the Verizon Mobile Security Index, 22% of small businesses encounter mobile-related breaches every year, and 42% of those affected consider the outcomes significant.
As these devices continue to play an essential role in business operations, companies will need to prioritize mobile security and train their staff to protect sensitive data and maintain their reputation. In this blog, we'll outline some of the most common threats to mobile devices today and offer ten tips to enhance the security of your small business mobile devices.
Common Risks with Mobile Devices
Mobile devices bring convenience, greater productivity, and enhanced communication to small businesses around the globe. However, if these devices are not secured effectively, they can compromise an organization's operations and sensitive data. In the sections below, we'll explore common risks associated with mobile devices today.
Malware is software that is installed on a computer or mobile device without the user's consent. Once inside, it can steal your information, slow down your device, and even damage it. Common forms of malware include viruses, trojans, worms, spyware, and adware.
Malware can be installed through infected files, suspicious websites, malicious email attachments, or by clicking on deceptive links. It can also spread through vulnerabilities in your operating system or software if they're not regularly updated and patched, posing a major threat to small businesses.
Phishing is a social engineering attack that manipulates users to share login credentials, click on malicious links, download harmful files, share credit card information, or perform other actions. These attacks often mask themselves as trustworthy companies, banks, government agencies, or other well-known entities to gain your trust.
Phishing attacks typically take place through email but can also happen through text messages, phone calls, or social media. The attacker will usually send a message that seems legitimate, asking the receiver to act urgently. The message could contain links, sending users to fake websites that ask for your personal information. Once your information is retrieved, they can gain access to your mobile device and access sensitive information.
Ransomware is a type of malware that hackers use to lock you out of your computer or mobile device. They do this by encrypting your files and turning them into unreadable code. Once your files are encrypted, the cybercriminals demand a ransom, usually in the form of money, to give you the key or code that will unlock your files.
Ransomware is often spread through emails or malicious websites. You might receive an email that looks real but contains a harmful attachment or a link. When clicked, it downloads ransomware onto your mobile device. Once your files are locked, you'll see a message from the cybercriminals demanding payment to release your files.
Man-in-the-middle (MitM) Attacks
Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks occur when a cybercriminal eavesdrops on network communications or alters the communications being transmitted. During these attacks, cybercriminals can steal sensitive information like login credentials, financial data, or personal messages. This can happen through compromised Wi-Fi networks, malicious software, or even by physically inserting themselves into the communication path.
Mobile devices are particularly vulnerable to MitM attacks because they frequently connect to different networks and public Wi-Fi hotspots. Connecting to an unknown network makes it easier for an attacker to set up a rogue access point and intercept your traffic. Additionally, mobile apps and websites don't always use secure encryption, leaving vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers.
Jailbreaking or Rooting
Jailbreaking and rooting are processes that cybercriminals use to get privileged controls on mobile devices. Jailbreaking refers to actions that take place with iPhones. During these attacks, cybercriminals will exploit vulnerabilities in the mobile device's software to unlock certain restrictions that are normally in place to keep the device safe. By doing this, cybercriminals can run unauthorized apps, make changes to the device's operating system, or remove built-in security features.
Rooting, on the other hand, is the same process but occurs with Android devices. Cybercriminals use this technique to gain administrative access to the device's root directory, essentially giving them full control over the Android operating system. To achieve this, they often exploit security weaknesses or vulnerabilities in the Android system.
Failing to update your mobile device's software and apps can leave vulnerabilities unpatched. Developers release updates to patch known weaknesses that cybercriminals can exploit. Without these patches, your device becomes an easier target for malware, data breaches, and cyberattacks.
Outdated apps and software may also not work well with newer technologies, leading to slower device operation, crashes, freezes, and overall poor performance. Regular updates not only strengthen security but also ensure your device runs smoothly and efficiently.
Tips for Securing Small Business Mobile Devices
Mobile device attacks are becoming more common and advanced each year, but there are steps small businesses can take to protect themselves. Follow the ten tips below to improve your mobile device's security and safeguard your business:
- Create Strong Passwords: Make sure all your staff members protect their smartphones and tablets with strong passwords. Passwords should be at least 12 characters long, have upper and lower case letters, use numbers and symbols, and should not use personal information. Staff members should also use different passwords for different accounts. Password management tools can be helpful for keeping track of multiple passwords.
- Use Multi-Factor Authentication: While creating strong passwords is a great first step, multi-factor authentication can add an extra layer of security. This process typically sends a unique code to your phone through text or an app. You'll then need to input this code as the second step to confirm your identity. Even if someone discovers your password, they would still need your mobile device to access your account.
- Install Anti-Malware: Anti-malware is a software program designed to scan mobile devices to prevent, detect, and remove different forms of malware, such as viruses, trojans, and spyware. These software programs should be updated regularly to ensure they are effective and can combat the latest online threats. Consider scheduling regular scans and setting up automatic updates to keep your devices protected.
- Avoid Public Wi-Fi: Advise your staff to avoid public Wi-Fi or to use it with caution, as cybercriminals can exploit unsecured connections to gain unauthorized access. When possible, use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your device's activity and keep your information private. Turn off Bluetooth discoverability and Wi-Fi auto-connect for additional security.
- Keep Software and Apps Updated: Outdated software and applications are more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Regularly update your device's operating system and all installed apps to patch security vulnerabilities and keep your device safe.
- Minimize Downloads: Advise your employees to only download essential apps and files from reputable sources. Unnecessary downloads can increase the risk of online threats. By keeping downloads to a minimum, you reduce the chances of inadvertently installing malicious software or compromising your device's security.
- Enable Remote Wiping: Remote wiping is a feature that allows you to erase the data on your phone or tablet remotely if it is lost or stolen. Make sure this feature is enabled on all company-owned mobile devices. In the event of a security breach, this capability allows you to protect sensitive data and prevent unauthorized access to company information.
- Check Your App Permissions: App permissions can give software applications access to your mobile device's microphone, camera, private messages, photos, conversations, and more. While it may be easy to just hit "accept" when a permissions box pops up, carefully read the permissions and avoid applications that can put your device at risk.
- Train Your Staff: The first step to mobile device security is awareness. Hold regular meetings with your staff to go over the latest mobile device threats and best practices for keeping company-owned devices safe. Train your staff to identify, avoid, and report suspicious activity or social engineering attempts.
- Make Encryption a Priority: Data encryption is another tool that can help protect your organization's sensitive data. This means securing both the information stored on your device and the data sent over networks. While some smartphones have features that automatically encrypt your stored data, do not solely rely on these built-in options. Consider using third-party encryption software recommended by your IT department to make sure your devices are safe.
Mobile devices have become powerful tools that offer flexibility, connectivity, and enhanced productivity. However, they also bring significant security risks that small businesses must address. To mitigate these risks, small businesses should prioritize mobile security and implement the ten tips outlined in this blog.
At Prescient Solutions, we specialize in providing comprehensive cybersecurity solutions to businesses in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas. Whether it's creating strong password policies, implementing multi-factor authentication, or keeping software and apps up-to-date, we work closely with your team to strengthen your defenses against mobile-related breaches and other cyber threats.
Get in touch with us today to secure your mobile devices and protect your business from evolving IT threats!