Do you know what your Smartphone (iPhone, BlackBerry, Droid, etc.) is doing and what information it is storing and transmitting
Obviously we all know that the Smartphone stores phone numbers, text messages, pictures, and the owner’s (your) name. However, most people don’t realize that all phones have a unique identification number which can be used to track what you are doing.
The applications (apps) on your phone will send information to the app owner. Google and Apple do not require privacy policies to be provided by the app vendor, so you won’t always have that assurance if you want to use a specific app. The data the app transmits can include your phone’s unique identification number and your location. The app vendor already has the information that you provided when you registered to use the app.
Marketing companies want to know which apps you activate, how long you stay in the app, and what part of the app you use. For example, E-books, Kindles, iPads, Nooks, etc., can transmit data back to the manufacturer, including how fast you read (i.e., turn the page), if you skip pages (or jump ahead to the end of the book), and where you read the book (e.g., at home, in the office, or at a coffee shop).
Companies that obtain personal information insist they aggregate the data and that it is not used to track individuals. However, it is worth remembering that at some point before the data is aggregated, it will be individual data and can be used to identify an individual.
Is your Smartphone used for business?
Is your Smartphone solely for personal use or do you also use it for business?
If a salesperson uses Google Maps on his or her Smartphone to plan a route to visit customers, the locations (or places visited) will be retained (geopositioning). This information could be valuable, as it may identify potential customers for a competitor.
Perhaps the main business use of a Smartphone is to obtain emails while away from the office. These may be mostly personal transmissions, but business emails are accessed as well.
Do you take the same care to protect your Smartphone as you do your laptop? What about data privacy issues? In today’s environment, most companies encrypt any data stored on employee laptops to prevent unauthorized access. The same information may be available on the Smartphone, but is it secured? Is the data on your Smartphone encrypted? BlackBerry, one of the main providers of business solutions, provides encryption through its BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) application for BlackBerry devices. Anti-virus software has been installed on laptops for years, but do you have it on your Smartphone?
What should you be doing?
Smartphones are easy to misplace and it is estimated that approximately 37 million cellphones (including Smartphones) are lost in the U.S. alone each year.
Whether used for business or only for personal activities, Smartphones should be looked at as just another end-user device. Businesses should ensure that their existing information security policies cover the use of mobile devices and that these are kept current with new developments in mobile computing, including Smartphone
To secure the Smartphone, consider buying and installing mobile security products. There are companies in the market that provide mobile security solutions, but some may not work for all of the different operating systems, such as Windows Mobile, Symbian, BlackBerry OS, and Android. The individual user may need to invest time researching mobile security products that are compatible with their particular Smartphone. Functionality to look for in a mobile security solution includes: Anti-Theft Protection, Anti-Spam Protection, Privacy Protection, Data Encryption, Parental Controls (if you have kids), and Anti-Virus Protection and Firewall. A few of the leading mobile security solutions in the industry that offer all or some of the above features are: BullGuard Mobile Security, KasperSky Mobile Security, SMobile Security Shield, ESET Mobile Security, and Norton Smartphone Security. The 2011 top ten Mobile Security Software Review Product Comparisons can be found at
If you decide to use the latest application, you may have to accept the conditions that go with it. Remember that information you provide when registering for an app may be used or shared without your explicit consent and the identity of your location may be available at any point in time. At the end of the day, we each control how much information we want to expose through the usage of our personal or business Smartphones.