By Terry Cutler
Where technology goes so do hackers. Where hackers turn up, usually means bottom line problems for companies, and these unscrupulous hackers are already snaking and slithering unknowingly in many cases in the back end of company networks; through employee mobile devices like Smartphones and laptops.
So it is safe to say that where Smartphones go, specifically these devices in the hands of executives, a hacker with malicious intend will follow and with the rate of Smartphone adoption and capabilities; anywhere from access to email, applications, the Internet and company data, executives are using their devices to stay in touch with family and co-workers through social networks, all the time building a larger and larger database, all the time adding data to their applications.
It may be good for business, but the appeal for hackers with mal-intent is obvious. The build up of data, times the growth in Smartphone usage, means that one-day a massive attack on sensitive company data could have begun its path to destruction through a Smartphone or laptop.
In a nutshell, a Smartphone is a cell phone to make phone calls, but also adds in features that normally would be found on computers or in the past on what was known as Palm Pilots. In the past, the ability to send and receive e-mails, search the Internet and work on office documents was restricted to the office or laptop computer. The palm pilot could sync with a computer, but for the most part was a secure personal database, known as a digital assistant that stored data. The biggest security concern was losing the storage device and having someone using the information for mal-intent.
So now we can create and edit Microsoft Office documents, download apps with personal and business managers, personal assistants, or driving GPS directions; the list of apps is endless. What these Smartphones can do now, they will be doing twice as much in the near future.
The list of possibilities is also endless for a hacker. What the hacker can do today may also be twice what he or she can do tomorrow. Data theft is at the forefront of these Smartphones because these devices are excellent tools to steal user data.
In 2010, Canadian Mobile Ad Placement revenue grew at a rate of 105% year-over-year, driven primarily by Search and Mobile Display/Sponsorship according to Mobile In Canada: A Summary Of Current Facts and Trends http://www.iabcanada.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/IABCanada_MobileInCanada_041012_FINAL.pdf
The study reported almost 85% of Canadians are cell phone subscribers and 45% of the latter have Smartphones. Half of Canada’s Mobile subscribers are monthly Internet users, dominated by 18-44 year olds, mostly using the device for monthly Internet activities, downloaded apps and browsing the study concluded.
So when companies issue Smartphones to employees without security hoping for a bottom line reward, they may be asking for a lot more problems, which can indeed bottom out the bottom line.
I’m a government cleared cybersecurity expert (a Certified Ethical Hacker), and the Vice-President of Cyber at SIRCO, an investigations and protections firm in Montréal, Canada.
I’m also a frequent contributor to National & Global media reportage about cyber-crime, spying, security failures, internet scams, and the real social network dangers that families and individuals face every day.