Smartphone security

24 09 2012

The concept of the cellular phone was not something new. In a sense, portable radios which have been in use since 1921 can be defined as early cellular phones (1)(4). In 1947, cellular phones were developed as mobile car phones, a concept created by Bell Laboratories. However, it not until 1973 that the world was first introduced to the cellular phone we know today. Conceived by Motorola, the first cellular phone combined the idea of the car phone with modern technology to make the phone fully portable (1). With each passing decade, cellular phones began to advance greatly, technologically surpassing its predecessors and rendering them obsolete. Today they are basically mini computers or smartphones. Smartphones are defined as “a device that lets you make telephone calls, but also adds features that you might find on a personal digital assistant or a computer” (3). With the new capabilities and growing access to the Internet, smartphone security has become a growing issue. Smartphones use their own specific network protocols to send and receive data, either by phone calls, web browsing, file transferring, etc. (5). These protocols include General Packet Radio Services (GPRS), Enhanced Data GSM Environment (EDGE), Universal Mobile Telecommunication Service (UTMS), Wideband Code-Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) and others. Due to the fact that these protocols are wireless they are highly susceptible to many security vulnerabilities. One such vulnerability is the “Evil Twin” attack. An “Evil Twin” attack occurs when a hacker makes a fake server with a legitimate hotspot service identity; so that when a user connects their information can be intercepted (6). The improvement of security for smartphone network protocols is imperative to prevent these kinds of attacks; a good example can be seen in the upgrade from IPv4 to IPv6 and IPsec.

Smartphone viruses have not been as common as computer viruses even though they are essentially the same thing, executable files (7). This is because unlike computer operating systems which are mainly Microsoft products, smartphones vary in operating systems, software, and hardware. Also these viruses can only be spread to phones that have access to internet downloads, Bluetooth connection, and multimedia messages. The first smartphone virus called, Cabir, was created by malware developers to test its capability (7). Although it infected a small number of Bluetooth enabled phones, an undeniable statement was made that smartphones were not invincible to viruses and other security risks. Smartphone viruses have the capability of deleting contacts, calendar appointments and spread by sending infected multimedia messages to all your contacts. As smartphones continue to grow in popularity the threat of wide spread viruses rises (7).

To improve network and software security certain steps must be taken. The improvement of network protocols such as GPRS through encryption is paramount. German computer engineer Karsten Nohl deciphered the algorithm used by several telecommunication companies to encrypt mobile Internet traffic (8). He also discovered that several companies do not encrypt their digital data at all.  These improvements should be made along the same lines as IPv6 and IPsec, which incorporated authentication and encapsulation. To improve software and operating systems security, patches for mobile operating systems should be kept up to date. Several companies have developed virus detection software for detecting and removing viruses found on a phone. To prevent viruses from infecting your phone via Bluetooth, turn off Bluetooth broadcasting. By using these methods and others, smartphone security can be improved.

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(1)  “Cell Phone History.” . Oracle ThinkQuest, n.d. Web. 18 Sep 2012. <http://library.thinkquest.org/04oct/02001/home.htm&gt;.
(2)  “History of Cell Phones.” . N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Sep 2012. <http://www.global-source-mkt.com/cellphonefacts.html&gt;.
(3) Cassavoy, Liane. “Cell Phones.” . N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sep 2012. <http://cellphones.about.com/od/glossary/g/smart_defined.htm&gt;.
(4) Brian, Marshall. “How Cell Phones Work.” . N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sep 2012. <http://www.howstuffworks.com/cell-phone.htm&gt;.
(5) Coustan, Dave. “How Smartphones Work.” Network Protocols. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sep 2012. <http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/smartphone3.htm&gt;.
(6) Coustan, Dave. “How Smartphones Work.” The Future of Smartphones. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sep 2012. <http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/smartphone5.htm&gt;.
(7) Layton, Julia. “How Cell-phone Viruses Work.” . N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sep 2012. <http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/cell-phone-virus.htm&gt;.
(8) O’Brien, Kevin. “Hacker to Demonstrate ‘Weak’ Mobile Internet Security.” The New York Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sep 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/10/technology/hacker-to-demonstrate-weak-mobile-internet-security.html&gt;.

 

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