The chances are, like many other people, you will own a smartphone. The popularity of the these phones has increased exponentially over the past few years, and as a result more and more people are able to access the Internet via existing networks. However, despite such popularity some smartphones, and in particular those using the Android operating system, have come under increasing scrutiny because of security flaws.
As a result, there are a few risks that you should be aware of concerning these types of phones and the networks they use or connect to. In effect, these types of phones are mini-computers, they still have processors and hard drives, and you can still download software and applications as you please. So, just like with computers, there are still risks when it comes to networks. The following then is a list of the risks you should be aware of:
Downloading Harmful Software
Just like a desktop computer or laptop, your smartphone can still download software that isn't only harmful to your phone, but also the network you're connected to. These phones usually come with large storage capacities allowing you to download different software and applications. However, the more you download, the greater the risk that you'll install an application that is harmful or has security flaws. The best advice is to always ensure you read reviews of the application, as well as installing some form of antivirus checker. Also, only download applications that you're actually going to use, and always perform regular data backups.
Rooting Your Phone
When you purchase a smartphone, you have certain restrictions applied. For example, you'll only be allowed to download and install apps from certain marketplaces that have been preapproved by the manufacturer. You'll also have restricted access to your operating system, preventing you from tampering with it, or changing it. However, some users perform what's known as 'rooting' or 'jail-breaking'. This process gets around these issues, so you can have full control and access to your device. If you do, you pose a much greater risk to your network because your apps will have root access and you could also expose sensitive and personal data onto your network.
A recent story has shown the dangers and risks of downloading applications, and how they can harm your network. A University recently realised there was a device on their network which was scanning external IP addresses found on that specific network. This isn't uncommon, and it's usually a case of what's known as a 'Zombie PC'. However, in this instance, it was actually a smartphone that was connected to their wireless network and a rogue application was scanning the network, unbeknownst to the owner.
With older phones it used to be a case of connecting to your PC with a specific cable, and from here you could backup files and your phone book, just in case anything happened to your phone. However with smartphones, you can now upload, share and connect to other devices, including PCs thanks to WiFi, Bluetooth as well as USB tethering. Whilst this is excellent for the user, for those monitoring networks, it means greater exposure, and a greater risk of harmful activity.
Thanks to file shares on networks, you could extract lots of data from your phone. These new smartphones come with a huge amount of storage, and through everyday use, you'll have a multitude of files that can easily be shared if you're not careful. Leaking or exposing such data will put you and your network at risk.
What To Do?
For anyone that is concerned about the risks Smartphones pose to networks, there are a number of solutions. Firstly, you can make sure that anyone trying to connect to your network identifies themselves, and once they're on, you should be monitoring their activity with network monitoring software.