One Bad App Can Spoil the Phone

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Smartphone Security Gaps

Employees are at risk for viruses and other security breaches, so IT staff need to be just as vigilant with company-issued phones accessing the network as they are with computers.

I have three applications on my phone: mobile e-mail, GPS and ESPN. All three are essential to my life. I can now check on my e-mail wherever I am, I can keep up with baseball scores when I'm nowhere near a TV, and I don't get lost anymore.


But then, I'm only beginning to use my phone more for business, and I see more apps in my near future, not just for work purposes but also for my entertainment. I'll be joining millions of others who use their smartphones (and apps) for both business and pleasure.


Of course, with the increasing numbers of those downloading apps and the increasing app store options, there is growing security concern. The bad guys see the opportunities in creating and selling malicious apps, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. The security risks have caught the attention of the FBI:


"Mobile phones are a huge source of vulnerability," said Gordon Snow, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Cyber Division. "We are definitely seeing an increase in criminal activity."


The FBI's Cyber Division recently began working on a number of cases based on tips about malicious programs in app stores, Mr. Snow said. The cases involve apps designed to compromise banking on cellphones, as well as mobile "malware" used for espionage by foreign nations, said a person familiar with the matter.


This is a concern across platforms. Even though Apple's app procedures are stricter than Google's, both have seen malicious code get through the system. A Tech Republic blog offers advice on how to avoid downloading the bad apps that can infect your smartphone:


If you pay attention to the tech media, you know that neither Apple nor Google is impervious to having malicious applications in their respective stores. Since that's the case, let's see what the experts say we can do to avoid downloading malware:

  • Positive reviews: Examine reviews to ensure the application is from a reputable developer. There are websites that test software for all the smartphones. That's a good place to start.
  • Negative news: Due to the nebulous nature of smartphone-application development, any negative information about an app should be taken seriously, especially ones dealing with your finances.
  • Healthy skepticism: The way all the app stores work should encourage a lack of trust on our part.


Another option is to restrict what apps can be downloaded on company-issued smartphones. For those companies that allow personal phones to be used for business purposes, it may be time to take another look at smartphone policy.