Smartphone Users Putting Themselves At Greater Risk
-Smartphones are becoming attractive targets for hackers and producers of malicious software because many of the devices contain a wealth of sensitive personal and financial information, experts said.
Seven percent of smartphone owners were victims of identity fraud in 2011, a one-third higher incidence rate compared to the general public, according to a recent survey by Javelin Strategy and Research.
The increased risk is attributable in part to consumer behavior. The survey found that 62 percent of smartphone owners don't use a password on their home screen, enabling anyone to access their information if the phone is lost.
The survey also found that 32 percent save login information on their devices.
More than 1 billion people worldwide are expected to own smartphones by 2016, according to Forrester Research. In the U.S. alone, consumers will own 257 million smartphones and 126 million tablet computers.
Smartphones often contain people's banking data, contact information, work and personal email accounts, and family photos, making them a "wonderful target" for hackers, said Vikram Sethi, director of the Wright State University Institute of Defense Studies and Education.
Consumers tend to think their mobile devices are safer from break-ins than desktop computers, but many people fail to update their operating system or run security software on their smartphones, Sethi said.
"That leaves these devices actually more vulnerable than any other type of environment," he said.
Mobile banking applications that allow users to quickly send money from their handheld device carry more information about the individual user and their financial transactions than most home computers, which tend to be more secure, Sethi said.
"I think we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg with the vulnerabilities in mobile media," he said.