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Privacy & Security Canada > Alerts > Security and Privacy in a Mobile Device World

Cyber Security Awareness month: Security and
Privacy in a Mobile Device World

Today’s world is a mobile one. Technology provides us with the flexibility to work, communicate, be informed and be entertained, all while on the move.

As our flexibility increases, however, so do the risks to the information that is accessible from the devices that cater to our mobile needs. The threats range from scams and malware that reach us through our mobile devices, to loss or theft of those devices, which cost us money or put our information at risk of unauthorized and unwelcome access. While you can buy another device, it can take a lot of time and frustration to recover when someone has misused the personal information or applications that were on the mobile device.

Be aware of the scams

It’s important to be aware that there are now scams and malicious software targeted directly to mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. You should take the same precautions with your mobile devices that you have become accustomed to taking with your personal computer.  For example:

  1. There are scams designed specifically for mobile phones. A common one offers a free iPad to persuade you to subscribe to products or services, which turn into pricey subscriptions. As you do with email, independently verify the validity of any offer before you take any other action.
  2. Be careful from where you purchase/download new “apps.” Sticking to reputable sources will help to ensure that you are not receiving any unwanted and malicious software hidden within the new game or other application that you are purchasing.
  3. Be aware of and understand the privacy settings on your mobile devices. Ensure that you know the permissions that you are allowing, before installing new apps or upgrading existing ones. Ensure you do not inadvertently allow access to your personal and contact information. Visit the website of the vendor for your mobile device for instructions on how to do this.
  4. Know what you’re connecting to! Don’t connect to networks that you don’t recognize or aren’t 100% sure of, even if the name is strikingly similar to the network that you want. Criminals will often put up wireless networks that appear to you as “Free WiFi” or other attention-grabbing names.

Minimize the Risks

The size and portability of mobile devices increases their risk of loss or theft. To help minimize the risks to all your mobile devices and the information accessible from them, remember:

  • Never leave a mobile device unattended in a public place. Thieves look for any unguarded moment, to relieve you of your belongings.
  • Keep your mobile devices with you. If it’s necessary to leave a mobile device, or even a briefcase, unattended in your car for a short period of time:
    1. lock these in the trunk, so they won't be visible to passersby
    2. transfer mobile devices to your trunk when you get into your car, not at your destination, in case someone is watching.
  • Remember to use the passphrase or password lock feature on all your mobile devices to protect your information and your friends' information too!
  • Keep the amount of confidential information stored on your laptop or other mobile device to the minimum needed to do your job.

With a little care and caution, you can help protect yourself against hacks at your expense.