Mobile Device Apps May Open Doors to Hackers, Warns Better Business Bureau

CHICAGO, IL -  Mobile devices, like smart phones and tablets, are great tools for handling certain tasks with more convenience. However, risks come with the ease these devices and their apps provide. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that some hackers have created apps or put malware in current apps that can infect phones and mobile devices. If your phone sends email or text messages that you didn’t write, or installs apps that you didn’t download, you could be looking at signs of malware.

“Before you download an app, consider what it does and what you know about who created it,” says Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “The app may not be trustworthy if the developer doesn’t provide a website or an email address.”

Watch for the following apps as they collect a lot of personal data:

Activity tracker – These apps allow you track how many steps you’ve taken, what your heart rate is and in some instances allow you to track your runs through GPS. Your username, address, password and potential GPS data is at risk if this data is sent from the tracker to the app unencrypted.

Baby monitor –The fully networked, motion-sensing, HD video-streaming systems use your home Wi-Fi network and certain models can communicate directly with your phone using Bluetooth. Create a strong password on both your network and camera to ensure hackers are kept out.

Blood glucose meter – Certain meters are able to pass along blood glucose test results to a smartphone app to help diabetics manage their condition. If you are using these meters, make sure the app is encrypting the health data that’s being stored, which helps prevent breaches.

Door lock & HVAC adjustments – Being able unlock a door remotely or adjust heat and air conditioning through a home Wi-Fi network is a new luxury some users have when using a connected lock program. Security researchers have successfully hacked into these programs. Some of these programs also consolidate a home’s data on to a single server.

“If you think you have malware on your device, contact customer support for the company that made your device or reach out to your mobile phone carrier for help,” adds Bernas. “You can also install a security app to scan and remove apps if it detects malware.”

How to stay safe on your mobile device:

  • Most public Wi-Fi networks aren’t secure. If a hotspot doesn’t require a WPA or WPA2 password, it’s probably not secure.
  • Use a secure network if you plan on using a mobile app to conduct sensitive transactions like shopping with a credit card or accessing your bank account. Even if the app doesn’t encrypt the information, the network does.
  • Change the settings on your mobile device so that it doesn’t connect automatically to nearby Wi-Fi.
  • Update the apps you’ve installed on your device and the device’s operating system when new versions are available. They often have security patches that protect your information and your device from the latest malware.

For more tips, visit www.bbb.org/chicago, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or add us on Pinterest.