Smartphones and tablets are becoming increasingly popular targets for hackers and malware, so Internet security is just as vital for them as for a personal computer, the Hardy Telecommunications Youth Advisory Board learned at its February 18 meeting.
“As more and more people use their smartphones and tablets for banking, purchasing, and Internet services traditionally done with personal computers, hackers and would-be thieves are making that transition as well,” Hardy Marketing/Human Resource Director Derek Barr told the students. “They go where the money is, and mobile devices are where the money is.”
Derek said the thought of installing a virus and malware protection program on a mobile device doesn’t occur to most people, even though smartphones and tablets usually have the same password and personal information on them that a personal computer does.
“Once a cyber-criminal gets your password for even one account, he often can use it to gain access to other accounts,” he said. “Many people use the same or a similar password for multiple accounts.”
Derek also advised the students to use different passwords, or at least use a password that wouldn’t be so easily guessed and has a combination of upper- and lower-case letters and numbers. It’s better to set up answers to website security questions in the same way.
“Many sites have security questions to change your password. A hacker easily can find out your high school mascot or mother’s maiden name through information readily available on the Internet, so provide unexpected answers to those questions that you will remember but will be difficult for a hacker to guess.”
There are several free security programs available for mobile devices. Derek demonstrated how the program Lookout Mobile Security will scan any applications downloaded to your phone and alert you to malicious software. Lookout also can locate your phone if it’s lost. Derek also used Lookout’s Internet website to trace his phone’s GPS coordinates to within meters. If you believe your phone has been misplaced nearby, Lookout even sounds an alarm on your phone so you can find it.
A paid version of Lookout gives users the capability to lock down and prevent anyone else from using a mobile phone if it’s lost or stolen, or even wipe all data from a mobile phone.
Derek also advised students to install spam and virus protection programs on their personal computers if they haven’t already done so. Microsoft Security Essentials is free and not only scans your computer for viruses, but it also provides real-time protection to prevent a user from downloading malicious content.
The speed at which data travels on the Internet makes it easy for computer viruses and malware to proliferate quickly. Derek used a program to trace the path that an Internet connection takes in displaying a website on a computer. He then showed that path on Google Maps, showing how an Internet connection can travel to London, South Korea, Russia, and China and return in just seconds.
Hardy formed its Youth Advisory Board in 2007 to educate students about Hardy Telecommunications and the telecommunications industry, and for the students to share their ideas and thoughts about technology important to them. The group is comprised of students from East Hardy and Moorefield high schools.
This year’s Youth Advisory Board members are Paula Smith, East Hardy junior; Krysten Ayers, Moorefield junior; Ian Im, East Hardy sophomore; MaKayla Miller, Moorefield sophomore; RaeAnn Orndorff, East Hardy freshman; and Josh Ograbisz, Moorefield freshman.