Smartphone hacking

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Smartphone hacking

We recently got an e-mail from Mayer Nudel, publisher of the monthly Traveler’s World Threat Map and the daily Travel Advisories Subscription Service that we discussed previously in the March 2003 ÆGIS (http://www.lubrinco.com/ejournal/ej200303.pdf). The e-mail was about a recent well-publicized story(http://www.wkyc.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=88234) of a family that had been terrorized because their daughter’s smartphone had been hacked. One might ask why they didn’t just get the daughter another phone: We address that in article four of this issue.

What is a smartphone? A smartphone is a handheld computer that combines a number of functions, one of which is a mobile phone. The advantage of doing this is that by combining devices you have fewer of them. The disadvantage of multi-function devices is that some of the functionality usually suffers – generally, in our experience, that of the phone. Thus, if you get a Blackberry you will have good access to you e-mail, an ok PDA, and dreadful phone quality. If you get a Palm Treo you will have an excellent PDA, good access to your e-mail, and a dreadful phone. If you get an iPhone you will have nifty Internet access, great toy value, and a dreadful phone. And if you get the new Café – the combination coffee and doughnut maker/phone you will have great coffee and doughnuts, and a dreadful phone. Because of this we know many people who have either gone back to separate devices. One friend now carries the Treo given him by his company for e-mail plus his Palm Pilot and a separate mobile to make calls. In another case a Blackberry given by their company for e-mail and a separate mobile for voice. And we know someone who has an iPhone they carry and love, plus a separate mobile in case they actually need to speak with someone.

In addition to loss of functionality, computers that connect to the outer world have the potential to be vulnerable to viruses and other malware. While the number of different operating systems means that some will be safe, as systems become more dominant they become more vulnerable. Thus, in the world of regular computers, the dominant Windows operating system has a lot of viruses attacking it, while the less-dominant Macintosh has a relative handful. Few Mac users bother to install anti-virus software at all, and about a third of Windows either don’t install anti-virus software or don’t bother to update it. Thus, even though anti-virus software is widely available for mobile phones, most will simply never bother to acquire or install it.

The bottom line is that many people carry smartphones, and few bother to protect them. When these people become victimized because they did not take even the most rudimentary prudent protective measures, it is still a pity.

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