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Is the Malware Tidal Wave Ready To Sweep Away Your Staff's Mobile Devices?

Nokia's recent Threat Intelligence Report found that malware infections of mobile devices, especially smartphones, skyrocketed in 2016. In October 2016, malware infected 1.35 percent of all mobile devices, an all-time high.

Smartphone malware infections, which comprise the vast majority of mobile device infections, increased 400 percent in 2016. Although most malware (81 percent) targets Android-based smartphones and tablets, iOS-based devices did suffer attacks as well. Spyphone surveillance software, which monitors users' activities, poses the greatest risk for iOS devices.

Malware attacks on Internet of things (IoT), or smart appliances, also increased. "Nokia malware report reveals new all-time high in mobile device infections and major IoT device security vulnerabilities," (Mar. 27, 2017).

Commentary and Checklist

The best way to keep family data and information secure is to not allow staff to intermingle family information with their personal information. Therefore, it is a best practice to issue a work device to be used for work only for those staff members who will have access to family information.

It is also important to make sure the devices are protected with the latest anti-virus software, and that the operating system is kept up-to-date, if the staff member will have access to family information.  

In addition, it is important for family employers to be aware of the risk malware presents and to train, on an ongoing basis, all staff members who use work computers or mobile devices on behalf of the family. Staff members’ poor Internet practices can leave family data vulnerable to identity thieves and ransomware.

It is important that your training include detailed information on keeping mobile devices secure.

Here are some more mobile device security tips to cover during staff training:

  • Secure all mobile devices with a password that only the family employer and staff person know.
  • Install tracking software on all mobile devices.
  • Install all updates to operating systems and other apps as soon as they become available. Updates often contain patches to protect against malware that exploits vulnerabilities in the software.
  • If the device is too old to install updates, replace the device. The cost of a new device will pale compared to the cost of recovering from identity theft.
  • Remember to keep mobile devices physically secure. Never leave a device sitting out on a table in public. Devices left in a hotel room should be locked in the safe.
  • When typing sensitive information into a mobile device in public, shield the device so that those around cannot see what you type.
  • Only use secure WiFi networks, avoiding unencrypted public networks.
  • Do not download non-work related apps on work mobile devices.
  • Immediately report any strange activity on your mobile device and turn it off.
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