In our 2012 collaborative survey with NCSA, we at NQ Mobile learned that there are many security issues that families need to discuss with their kids who own smartphones. For instance, do you know whether your kids are using location-sharing apps? There are quite a few available, and they can be incredibly fun and useful. However, location-sharing activities can also prove to be a real privacy problem if not used properly. Because many apps are free, you may not know if your kids are using them. In case you aren’t aware of how they work, we’ll try here to provide a brief overview.
Several smartphone apps on the market allow the user to post his or her own whereabouts at any given time. Teens find these apps particularly appealing, given their propensity to stay connected with their friends. Checking in from the library or the coolest party location is a very trendy way to stay connected. However, since this type of app often automatically downloads all the contacts from your kids’ accounts, such as Twitter, G-mail and Facebook, it makes him vulnerable to lots people learning of his location, and not all of them may be friends.
Kids are particularly drawn to these types of apps because it’s cool to stay connected, and the apps are often presented in a game-like design. It follows, too, that if your friends have it, you’re going to want it.
Gowalla, now owned by Facebook, is an tremendously popular “check-in” service that allows users to create a check-in spot for favorite cafes, museums, interesting street scenes, or just about any location that deserves to be shared. It’s great advertising for businesses, fun for the user and useful for those looking for a good restaurant. However, it should never, ever be used to “spot” your home or anyone else’s home, for obvious reasons. As with all apps, it should be used discerningly, and should be made a topic for family discussion before it’s even downloaded.
Foursquare, another very popular app, allows a user to check in from a city location, and critique everything from the service to the dessert menu.
Glympse, a popular smartphone app, allows people to share their real-time location through the phone’s GPS feature. This is a fabulous app for parents who want to track their kids’ short journeys and monitor their safety. The GPS map indicates, at any given point, exactly where the child is. It’s easy to send a “glimpse” of where you are at any given time, and the user can set a time period for the app to run. What this means for a parent is, if your child is going to a friend’s home a half hour away, Glimpse can be set for 30 minutes and a parent can track the child’s progress all the way to his destination. When the timer runs out, the tracking stops.
All apps, but maybe especially location-sharing apps, should be discussed with your kids before they’re downloaded. Have a round table discussion and imagine the ways in which a location-sharing app could be violated by strangers, or used carelessly. Talk about having a conscious awareness of when to use an app, and when to turn it off. Download our family privacy survey, and visit NCSA online for more safety tips.
Keeping your smartphone on automatic lock status is a smart idea. If you should set the phone down in a restaurant, misplace it at a sports event or leave it sitting on your desk at work, setting it to auto-lock will protect you from prying eyes. However, we’re all busy, and who wants to memorize a complicated password every time we pick up our phone? Here are some easy ways to create safe passwords that don’t cause you to strain your brain every time you want to make a call.
Think about a phrase that means something to you, and only you. Use the first letters of the phrase as a password, and add a special character or number. For instance, my mother often said to us, “Don’t end up in a ditch somewhere.” Her password could be deuiads3 – the first letter of each word and the 3 for her daughters. It’s a phrase she’s never forgotten (nor have we), and it creates a unique password that could never be easily cracked. Because there’s some humor attached to it, it’s easy for mom to remember and not unpleasant to repeat each time she wants to use her phone.
Think about something you want to remind yourself of every day, such as an affirmation. Perhaps you want to train yourself to spend your money more wisely. Your phrase could be something like, “I will not squander my funds today.” Your password? Iwnsmft! Entering and re-entering this one might actually help remind you to use good judgment in spending.
Consider using the letters from a quote you happen to like (not one that’s posted above your work station). Try not to use Shakespeare – it’s too common. Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” This password could be g1%i99%p. This one is particularly secure due to the numbers and special characters, and would be extremely difficult to guess, even for the most experienced hacker. If you are very familiar with the phrase, it’s easy for you to remember the password.
Using a phrase that pertains to you personally will not only help you remember your password, but will be obscure to others, unless you use a phrase constantly that everyone recognizes. For instance, if you have a habit of repeating some cliché every day, such as, “Always remember the bottom line,” your password should probably not be Artbl! – it would be pretty easy to figure out for anyone even casually acquainted with you.
Finally, follow basic password rules or safe smartphone use:
Change your password every couple months
Incorporate at least one number and special characters into your password
Never give your password to anyone
Don’t use the same password for different accounts
Don’t include your password in an email or text message
Keep your phone on auto-lock status
NQ Mobile is interested in your family’s mobile safety and security. Using these ideas to create your password can help protect your privacy and peace of mind. Enjoy reading our 2012 Family Privacy Survey.
When we talk about security issues surrounding our kids’ use of their smartphones, it’s important to include the fantastic feature of geo-tagging. Based in GPS technology, geo-tagging is a great way to record memories, and track the special times in our lives. However, geo-tagging can be a bit risky if we’re not aware of what it does. It’s a good idea to explore this feature with your kids, and understand the importance of using it only when it’s appropriate.
Everyone who owns a smartphone knows how convenient and fun it is to be able to take photos on the spot and catch an event on video at a moment’s notice. When geo-tagging is turned on, the exact latitude and longitude of your location is picked up, and your recorded image becomes tagged with the location, time and date it was taken. The downside? When it’s geo-tagged, the image may give away information not intended to go public.
For example, assume for a moment that you live in New England and you’re vacationing in Hawaii. Your kids are posting great photos and videos online of your family playing in the surf. Not only will their online friends know you’re all away from home, but anyone else with access to YouTube or their Facebook page can see where you are, as well. Because the feature includes the date and time, there’s no question as to your current location. This is a great invitation for intruders to visit your home in New England. Needless to say, it’s unlikely that every time you travel you’re going to get robbed due to geo-tagged images. However, just as important as locking your house before you leave, it’s good to be aware that you can be vulnerable if you or your kids are posting tagged images online.
Your kids can learn about geo-tagging with a simple reminder: If they’re shooting pictures with friends at the park or at home in their bedroom, others will know it – and that may include more than just friends.
Teach your kids how to turn geo-tagging off and on. You’ll find the option in your smartphone’s settings. Explain the potential risks of using geo-tagging, and, unless it’s of ultimate importance, remind them to keep the feature turned off.
In a world with no predators, geo-tagging is a perfect example of technological expediency and coolness. But the reality is that this feature needs to be used with respect for its power, and awareness of its potential.
NQ Mobile’s 2012 Privacy Family survey taught us a number of interesting facts, some of which we’ve discussed at length in our recent blogs. One very interesting finding from the survey was this discovery: Parents whose kids own smartphones tend to know less about mobile security than parents who’ve not bought their kids a phone.
Back when our focus was on PCs, we learned about all kinds of malicious pests such viruses and botnets — malware’s been around for a long time. It took quite a few years and thousands of mishaps before most of us learned our way around computer malware. Many PC users had their ID and financial information stolen before truly secure websites were established. Viruses were spread that could ruin a PC system by rewriting or wiping off an entire hard drive. Many of us received fake email messages from contacts, and far too many of us saw the blue screen of death. But that doesn’t happen quite as often these days.
We still see computer malware, but over time, the computer industry has developed methods to tighten up PC systems. PC security tools have grown more powerful and comprehensive. Although giant PC networks have been hacked recently, malware at an individual personal computer level hasn’t been at the top of our worry lists for quite a while. So,what does any of this have to do with mobile?
Mobile is a different story. With the massive smartphone movement that ballooned so rapidly in 2011, we’re seeing new forms of malware every day, and mobile security companies are scrambling to keep up. Mobile malware is not the same as PC malware. In a sense, we’re all having to start over again in terms of educating ourselves about security when it comes to our smartphones and other mobile devices. While some mobile security companies have translated old security methods from PC to mobile, the solutions don’t always successfully convert.
Perhaps the majority of parents who buy smartphones for their kids are under the assumption that malware troubles are something from the past. Maybe they think technology has come so far that protecting their kids’ smartphones isn’ a priority. After all, only seven percent of people in our entire survey said they’d been offered any security information whatsoever when they purchased their smartphones.
The truth is – the boom in mobile technology has brought about a mushroom cloud of malware development. Parents need to become educated about how to protect their security, identity and integrity of their mobile devices. In turn, we need to teach our kids every possible means of protecting themselves when using their own mobile devices.
Our friends at NCSA, our survey collaborator, have developed teaching tools for educators and parents in an effort to educate kids about safety online. There is a plethora of information available about mobile security on the Internet, including the contents of NQ Mobile’s blog pages.
When it comes to our kids’ security and safety with their smartphones, “better safe than sorry” is the best cliché. Start by downloading a strong security package, like NQ Mobile, and make it a family project to learn all about mobile security.
During NQ Mobile’s 2012 Consumer Survey, we asked our participants about their greatest security concern when it comes to their smartphones. The number one answer: Losing my phone.
We’ve all been through it. Suddenly, the smartphone is nowhere to be seen. Usually it turns up in a pocket, purse or under a sofa cushion, much to our relief. However, there may be a time when, despite calling your own number, searching your car and retracing your steps, the tool you depend on most has gone completely missing.
When a phone disappears, the initial concern is being cut off from the source of communication we rely on so much each day. A second source of angst may be the cost of replacing the phone. But, perhaps, the most disturbing aspect of losing a smartphone is the fact that we carry it around the way we used to carry a wallet. Our phone is our credit card, rolodex, watch, and computer. It contains bank account numbers, phone numbers and email and addresses of people we know, our music, photos, and a host of features that combine to make it our own personal link to the world. The thought of all of that personal information in the hands of someone who might make nefarious use of it is a bit frightening. Losing a cell phone is equal to losing a credit or debit card, so don’t forget to contact your financial institutions and report the loss, just in case someone decides to help themselves to your money or your credit.
Downloading loss protection on your phone is the best solution we know of to prevent the more serious losses associated with a lost phone. One great feature of loss protection software is the alarm, which can be set off remotely. In the best case scenario, the alarm might help you find your phone. In addition, it might discourage a thief from hanging onto it. Good loss and theft protection software will lock your phone up tight and, as a final safety measure, allow you to remotely wipe all the valuable data from your phone, including your contact list. If the phone turns up, the contact list can be restored remotely, as well.
Since the loss of a smartphone is the most pressing concern for most users, according to our survey results, it makes a lot of sense to take simple precautionary measures. Particularly when we have kids in the house who own smartphones, losing one is a real possibility, if not a probability. It also behooves us to teach our kids how to use loss prevention features so they can act quickly in the event their phone goes missing.
Our Consumer Survey resulted in some fascinating conclusions about how we perceive mobile security. We encourage you to check it out and see where you stand compared to the survey’s results. You can find the entire survey at
Don’t forget to download the most powerful, simple- to-use loss and theft protection software on the market, from NQ Mobile.
NQ Mobile cares about families. We recently talked to five hundred parents of children under the age of eighteen. That’s a lot of parents, and each one of them owns their own smartphone. Of the five hundred, one in five reported that at least one of their kids has a smartphone.
We discovered some interesting facts about parental viewpoints when it comes to kids and smartphone security. We wondered about how much responsibility parents take for educating their kids about mobile security threats and privacy risks. Our surveyors asked some questions directly related to how parents perceive these issues, and how they interact with their kids about them. What we found is that a majority of parents whose kids own smartphones have not set down any family rules about the smart use of mobile devices and have not implemented any of the parental control options available on their kids’ phones.
Why would parents want to impose parental controls?
One issue for parents might be controlling the number of texts, emails and calls a child is allowed to make. Kids can become obsessed with texting and emailing, often to the detriment of good homework habits and attention to more important skills. Certain control features can set up blackout periods to disable the phone during school or homework hours.
Many parents have learned the hard way that kids don’t really grasp how much it costs to mobile-socialize. Smartphones can offer features that provide an alert that will notify parents when a child has reached his or her pre-set limits. Parents also have the option of installing a pre-approved list of available phone numbers, to emphasize the use of the phone for safety, emergencies and practical functions.
If parents want to control the content accessed by their kids’ phones – which is especially important for younger children – content filters are available that will block any unsavory or inappropriate content. It’s a good idea, until your child reaches an age when he or she can read permissions agreements, to make downloading apps a family activity that’s done under your supervision only.
Tracking Your Kids’ Whereabouts
Geo-locators, perhaps one of the best features of a smartphone, gives parents the ability to track the geographical location of their child at any given time. There are risks that involve others being able to track them as well, so this feature must be used discerningly, but it’s a great way to keep up with whether your child has reached his destination, whether she is actually where she said she would be, and whether he or she is safe. Remember, if you don’t intend to use this feature, it should be turned off, just to be safe.
Be sure to download a comprehensive security package such as NQ Mobile. It can protect your kids from downloading cyber-junk and malware, and will help you find the phone if it goes missing. Most importantly, it can keep your personal information from falling into the hands of crooks, and can protect your child from the risks that are inherent in an invention as fantastic as the smartphone.
Our team at NQ Mobile, along with the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), just released findings from our recent consumer survey, which asked parents some important questions about how they view their children’s mobile privacy and security. Our findings were surprising and confirmed what we’ve known for a long time: If parents give their kids mobile devices, they need to have “the talk” with their kids about how to protect those devices and themselves. Check out our infographic below for an overview of some of our findings or view the entire study.
Texting on a smartphone has become one of the great American pastimes. When we asked the adults in our 2012 Consumer Survey to talk about how they use their smartphones, we found that 92 percent of their activities involve sending and receiving text messages. The survey didn’t even include teenagers!
Why is texting such an addictive way to communicate? For one thing, it’s totally private. We can text at any time in almost any environment without anyone knowing our topic of conversation. It is not noisy or particularly distracting to those around us. Conducting quick conversations from the airport with staff, or finding out what Grandma’s fixing for dinner this weekend can be accomplished privately with a few keystrokes.
Another advantage to texting is that we can say things that we might not normally say in a phone conversation. A quarreling couple can work through the stages of an argument via texting, rather than speaking. Texting provides real-time communication, as opposed to protracted email messages.
Since texting usually calls for a more truncated message than we might create for an email, we’ve learned to get our thoughts across quickly and succinctly. There’s no need to use a lot of unnecessary words when we text and, in fact, we’ve learned an entire language of abbreviated words that is a direct result of our texting culture. Why would a person spell out, “Oh, my goodness!” when we can simply say OMG?
Texting, or instant-messaging, has changed our lives for the better in most ways. So, what’s the down-side?
The most obvious danger involving texting is when people try to drive and text simultaneously. We are now hearing of fatal accidents caused by people who text while they drive. Hopefully, someone will develop a built-in lock that will sense when a person is driving a car.
A less obvious danger is that of reverse-charge malware that can creep into a smartphone’s SMS system by way of uninvited texts, emails and ads. All it takes is one click to inadvertently agree to such charges, and there’s no way to know whether you’re dealing with a legitimate retailer or website. There may be small signs – your phone may not behave normally, or the site you’re directed to may look a little strange, or have grammar or spelling that’s somewhat skewed. However, on a small smartphone screen, these can all be overlooked, and scammers are getting smarter about graphics and good grammar.
How does it work? In many cases, an ad will appear, as a text or email or even a voice message, offering something for free, such as ringtones or screen savers. You may be invited to enter a contest or drawing. A text message might appear to be an urgent message about your grandmother. The message almost always contains a truncated phone number for you to dial, and the moment you do so, the charges begin. Even more insidious is the kind of malware that will dial these numbers repeatedly, racking up charges sometimes into the thousands of dollars.
Even worse news is that this is only one type of demon that can enter your phone via texting – the malware industry is growing and new tricks are being devised every day. Cyber criminals need to make a living, just as we do. If they can profit from invading your favorite means of communication, they will surely do so.
The smartest way to avoid malware is to have a very strong and capable security system installed on your smartphone. Don’t reply to uninvited messages and delete them immediately. Turn off instant messaging and watch your phone bills for unauthorized charges.
Enjoy your smartphone, but be as smart as possible about using it safely.
We recently released the results of our 2012 consumer survey. We carried out this survey with NCSA for Data Privacy Day 2012. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to read the full report—here’s a great infographic that highlights some of our key findings. The biggest takeway? People care about mobile threats and are concerned that they might be victimized BUT most still don’t have adequate mobile security on their phones. It’s free and easy to download NQ Mobile Security so there’s lack of protection should be a thing of the past.
Tomorrow, January 28, 2012, has been declared Data Privacy Day by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). Events are planned worldwide to recognize and honor a day devoted to learning, understanding and teaching online safety. This is our third blog this week discussing the results of the Consumer Survey we conducted in collaboration with NCSA. If you missed the first two, be sure to check them out.
The 2012 Consumer Survey we did with NCSA has opened the eyes of many of us in the security industry about the vague level of knowledge that exists in our population about smartphone safety. It’s not that people really don’t give a hoot about having their personal data stolen – not at all. For some, malware may not have yet touched their lives in any significant way. Mobile malware has reached almost epidemic proportions in countries like Russia and China, but the problem is now growing quickly in our country. For some, there exists only a hazy awareness of the risks, and some folks think they’re already somehow protected from malware. While there’s a significant level of concern about security among smartphone users, there’s a noticeable gap in our knowledge and education about it.
Let’s look at more of the intriguing findings from our study.
* A strong majority of folks (78%) are concerned about security threats related to smartphones. But, when we asked our participants about specific security concerns, we found out that women are generally more concerned about every type of threat than are men. An interesting bubble that surfaced in the “specifics” area is that women seem to be more concerned about privacy than security. In other words, women dislike, more than men, the idea of their password being revealed or their privacy being invaded, while men’s concerns seem to run more toward security threats, such as data theft and invasions of malicious code.
* Most participants (87%) feel that their smartphone activities can be tracked, either by their carrier or intruders, however only a little over half of our sample reported knowing how to set permissions for location tracking, and only 38 percent know how to turn off the geo-tagging setting on their phone.
* The most persistent concern across our sample was that of loss or theft of the owner’s smartphone, and compromise of the data it contains.
* Nine out of ten of our interviewees have downloaded apps onto their smartphones – of course! Everyone does that. But, only 60 percent were aware that when downloading apps could be providing access to private information stored on their phones.
The upshot of our survey? Education is vital! Approximately 118 million smartphones were sold during the third quarter of last year alone, and those numbers have increased tremendously since then! When a wave of this magnitude occurs in our global society, the importance of education becomes a stark reality.
NCSA is making heroic efforts over these next few weeks to offer every opportunity for education about online safety and privacy. Worldwide Data Privacy Day events are planned for weeks to come. NCSA has made educational materials, ideas and suggestions available on their website for parents, instructors, students and the general public. We at NQ Mobile invite everyone to heighten their awareness of mobile security, and to pass your knowledge on to others as a way to make our mobile society a safer one.