If you run a small business in Ireland, then your smartphone is almost certainly the single most important tool you own. Yes, a laptop is useful for certain tasks. But the truth is that a modern smartphone can carry out nearly all the business functions needed to keep a small business going.
From video calls and communication to email and internet messaging, calendar and scheduling, document management, specialist apps, mobile banking and payments, social media and marketing – even navigation to help you get from point A to point B.
Go back five or ten years, and nearly all the things we now routinely do with a smartphone used to require a laptop or even a full desktop computer. In fact, for many people their smartphone effectively IS their main computer and the main way they interact with the digital world.
But with all that convenience there also comes the potential for problems. Managing risk is a big part of keeping any business afloat. That’s doubly so when a small company becomes dependent on any one particular tool to survive.
The truth is that using a smartphone comes with various cybersecurity risks, just like using any other internet-connected device. Here are some of the common cybersecurity risks associated with smartphones, along with ways to manage them.
Despite what you might think, smartphones can be infected with malware and viruses. These can compromise their security and potentially allow hackers to steal your information. In particular, malware can be delivered through malicious apps, unsolicited email attachments or infected websites.
The ubiquity of the smartphone – the fact that literally everyone has one – means that cyber criminals are focused on targeting them. This often comes in the form of phishing attacks, where fake emails, messages or links are randomly sent. These then attempt to trick the user into revealing sensitive information such as passwords and credit card numbers.
The fundamental rule is if you’re not expecting a message with an attachment, don’t open it. Don’t click on links without triple checking the context they were sent in and remember to be sceptical when something seems ‘off’ in a message or mail.
Many genuinely useful apps request extensive permissions when you install them. But they can also end up compromising your privacy. Be cautious about granting unnecessary permissions to apps, and ask yourself ‘why does this app need to access my camera, microphone, contacts or location data?’
Connecting to public Wi-Fi networks can expose your smartphone to security risks. Cybercriminals can intercept data on unsecured networks. Potentially gaining access to personal information. Likewise, not keeping your operating system and the apps you use up to date can leave you exposed to risk unnecessarily.
Updates don’t just add functionality. They also patch newly discovered security flaws in the software and apps your phone runs. If your phone prompts you to update its system software, do it.
Losing a smartphone or having it stolen can be a significant problem, especially if it contains sensitive data. The best way to protect against this is to make sure that your device has some kind of cloud-based back up system.
This should allow you to replace a lost or stolen device. You can be back up and running with minimal downtime and without losing your crucial data. Of course, it’s also important to make sure a lost device is of limited use to anyone who finds it. The key to this is making sure that security measures like PINs, passwords and biometrics are all in place.
Bluetooth and NFC (Near Field Communication) are extremely useful technologies for connecting a smartphone to other devices. These include vehicles, printers and even for using payment cards to make mobile payments. But these systems can be exploited by attackers that can get physically close to your device.
To protect against this, it’s a good idea to make sure your device is set so that Bluetooth is not discoverable by default. And obviously, avoid connecting to unknown devices.
When it comes to IT security, some things are evergreen. One of them is not to use weak or default passwords on your mobile devices. Take the time to set up proper passwords, or use a password management app to generate long and complex passwords. Store them and make them available across your devices. These are increasingly common and reliable, and mean you don’t have to actually remember your passwords yourself.
As small businesses, it’s easy to put off jobs like updating software and checking that employees are doing the same. But the more useful something is and the more critical it is to your day-to-day operations, the more important it is to look after it.
These devices keep us connected and help us manage our daily workloads. Ask yourself what would happen if the convenience your smart device brings was suddenly removed?
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