Would You Trade Your Mobile Gmail for Extra Security?

mobile cybersecurity

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The mobile devices we use for nearly every aspect of our lives are vulnerable to attackers. 

In fact, 88% of organizations worldwide experienced targeted phishing attacks in 2019, a type of social engineering attack often used to steal user data, including login credentials and credit card numbers. 

Even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ phone had reportedly been hacked by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in 2018. The Amazon chief’s phone began leaking data after he received a video file via WhatsApp that was sent from bin Salman’s account. The hack was executed by a malicious file that unknowingly gained access to information stored on his phone. 

But what is the alternative? Specialized phones designed to enhance privacy and security do exist, but they often require trade-offs that would fundamentally alter the way most people use their phone on a daily basis.

So-called “hardened” phones have a variety of built-in security measures that aren’t commonly found on smartphones. They also run on custom software built with privacy in mind. But those benefits come with compromises: There’s no Google Maps, no Gmail, no Instagram, and most important, no access to Google’s enormous app store. 

One of these alternatives is Purism’s Librem 5 smartphone. It runs on the company’s own operating system, based on Linux instead of Google’s Android, and includes physical switches for turning off the phone’s microphone, cameras, GPS, cellular, and Wi-Fi functionality.

The device doesn’t have access to Google’s Play Store and instead runs on the much smaller PureOS store, which only includes apps without third-party ads and trackers based on open-sourced code. That means those using the device will probably have to access popular services like Uber, Facebook, and Instagram, according to businessinsider.com.

Another option is using a burner phone while traveling – an inexpensive mobile phone that is designed for temporary use, after which it may be discarded. Burners are purchased with prepaid minutes and without a contract.

But the most effective security measures remain being cautious about opening unknown files and sharing personal information, practicing strong password management and keeping apps and software up to date.