FCC Creates Mobile Security Checklist

by Matt Klassen on December 24, 2012

We live in the age of the smartphone, the ubiquitous mobile computing/communication device that has become an integral part of our existence. However, despite the fact that everyone has a smartphone, the reality is that few know anything about their companion device, particularly how to maintain it and keep it secure. It’s a point that isn’t lost on the creators of malware either, as the smartphone has become the new frontier for hackers and other cyber-thieves.

Thankfully it’s a point that’s not lost on the Federal Communication Commission either, as the FCC announced late last week that its looking to spread its own strange version of Christmas cheer by creating a website dedicated to guiding smartphone users through a simply security check.

In an effort to make things as streamlined as possible, the FCC have compiled 10 straightforward security solutions for the average smartphone user, a starting point for those who know they need mobile security, but just don’t know how to get it. But as always this leaves several questions lingering, such as why now, and will such a list even work?

More than one third of all North Americans now own a smartphone, a testament to the utility of such a handy multi-functional mobile platform. But as is often the case, when technology becomes popular there is always a segment of the population who look for ways to exploit it for personal gain, evidenced no more so than the 367 percent rise in mobile security threats in 2011, a number I’m sure we’ll soon find did not decrease in 2012 either.

For this reason the FCC has seen it fit to release its own security tips, a sort of ‘Mobile Security for Dummies’ that the Commission hopes will curb at least some of the persistent threats to smartphones.

While some may think that the FCC is responding to a potential increased malware threat somehow connected to Christmas, the timing of the release is merely coincidental. The Commission is simply responding to the growing trend of smartphone security breaches,  with many incidents of cellphone hacking, hijacking, or other such cyber-thievery reported in 2012.

The tips themselves cover the standard gamut of security protocols, including setting PINs and passwords for everything they can, backup and secure all data, install apps only from certified and trusted sources, understand app permissions before installing anything, and to accept patches and updates to your smartphone’s operating system.

Although such tips are certainly handy, one has to wonder if the FCC has chosen the best tack here, given that lists and written reminders are notoriously unsuccessful in reaching a mass audience…particularly when that mass audience is North America. The problem for the FCC, and for smartphone users in general, is that most of us don’t like reading instructions or following directions, content in our blissful ignorance that if the app is available on an App Store, it must be alright.

The truth of the matter is that one day mobile security will be virtually dummy-proof, but that day isn’t here yet, meaning that it would behoove all of us smartphone users to glance at the FCC’s recommendations and take at least some responsibility for our own mobile security…I would hate to say, ‘I told you so’.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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