Seventeen days until the Olympics - security tips for mobile users

Opinion by Yuval Ben-Itzhak

In the lead up to the 2012 Olympics, one of the most hotly anticipated global events this year, London has the potential to become a hub of cyber criminal activity.

In the lead up to the 2012 Olympics, one of the most hotly anticipated global events this year, London has the potential to become a hub of cyber criminal activity.

Businesses have begun to implement mobile working as an option for employees to remain productive during the event. However, flexible working should not be at the expense of security. To mitigate the threat of cyber crime, UK businesses are required to protect company and employee data outside of the office perimeters.

As it is anticipated that cyber attacks will emerge on mobile users, either via socially-engineered attacks or direct malware distribution, installing a fully updated anti-virus suite is crucial for businesses whose employees are using their mobile phones to access company data as well as personal data such as payment details and social networks.

Moreover, a simple and easy to implement security software solution should include not only anti-virus security for web browsing, but also firewall technology and email defences and shields to guard against threats carried via Instant Messenger services and WiFi that targets PCs. It will enable companies to protect company data and furthermore lock, locate and wipe devices if a theft or loss occurs.

As a must-do, employees should always back-up their devices before they travel, as well as enable the phone locate functionality in case of a lost device. They should also only take information they need, which will limit what a criminal can take.

This will help the company to retrieve information if there is a loss very quickly and simply. If a smartphone has internet access, users need to enable filters and other on-board protection barriers. Similarly, turning off GPS capabilities can also limit location-trackers attempting to connect with phones.

Password protection should also be enabled on any laptop and smartphone; and that means avoiding using obvious passwords such as ‘12345678' or ‘password' or even ‘admin'. Instead, users should opt for an alphanumeric mix with special characters in upper and lower cases, such as ‘puppyLove567$', which are much harder to guess.

For employees who use their phones for work and for personal reasons, making sure that all their own data as well as the company's is safe helps to give complete peace of mind.

Often cyber crime threats can slip through the radar of the company's security protection depending on how the employee is using the mobile device. This could potentially increase during the Games.

It is likely that the Olympic Games will spur on the creation of a number of new apps. Apps are an increasing vector for cyber criminals since many mobile devices are tied into operator billing systems, which makes monetisation easy and effective. All the cyber criminals need to do is trick users to install a malicious app on their device through which they can gather revenue by utilising premium SMS services without the user even noticing.

Regardless of whether the mobile device is owned by the employee or the company, it is in the best interest of both employer and employee to ensure they have the right security features installed in order to help better protect it from cyber crime attacks, especially if the mobile device is being used to access both personal and company data.

Yuval Ben-Itzhak is CTO of AVG


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