Mobile Security Threats – The Ultimate Guide to Protecting Your iPhone in 2021

Mobile Security Threats
Image Credit: Security Magazine

Mobile security threats have increased significantly in the last decade, owing to an increase in mobile devices use and reliability. 

A few years ago, the biggest threats to data safety only existed for computers. Spywares were deployed to computers to run in the background while stealing data and spying on a network. While the threat for computers has not changed, cybercrime has gone a notch up to include security threats for mobile devices, including the iPhone. 

When it comes to securing a mobile device, it requires much more than simply having a good antivirus program in place. The user is required to improve their digital hygiene and mobile security protocols. Whether you use your iPhone for business or for personal purposes, a data breach can be detrimental and sometimes impossible to recover from. 

Types of mobile security threats

  • App-based threats

These threats occur when users download apps from unauthorized or untrustworthy sources or grant apps too much data access permissions. While the applications may seem legit, they sometimes come loaded with malware and spyware to skim data from the user’s phone.

For iPhone users, all iPhone apps are only downloadable from the apple store, which makes downloading a fake app impossible. However, there is still a security risk when it comes to app permissions on a device.  

  • Network-based threats

These types of threats are also commonly referred to as man-in-the-middle attacks. The cybercriminal infiltrates a network and waits for a vulnerable mobile device to hijack. This is common when using public Wi-Fi networks.

  • Web-based threats

These are subtle threats that mostly go unnoticed. The mobile device is infected when the user visits an unsafe website. These websites seem legitimate on the front end but are fixed with malware programs that download into a device as soon as it accesses the site.

  • Physical threats

This type of security threat occurs when a user loses their mobile device. If the phone is not protected by strong passwords and 2FA protocols, the cybercriminal can easily access the device to steal valuable information. This threat is especially dangerous to companies.

Common security threats for iPhone users and what you can do

  • App permissions

Whenever you visit the app store to download an application, the application requests a list of permissions like access to files and folders to function properly on your iPhone. Once you grant these permissions, some apps collect data and send it back to servers or third parties, like competitors. This leaves the files and folders in your device vulnerable to outside spying, and sometimes this data can fall into the wrong hands.

What you can do

Mobile Security Threats: App permissions

Go through the apps permissions on your iPhone and check what access different apps have. Where possible only grant the bare minimum permissions required for the functions of the app. Some apps only need permission to access your speakers and microphone to function but have access to other files and folders.

Also, make it a habit to evaluate the permission requests before granting them. If a list of permissions seems invasive for an application, you can skip the permission and only grant basic access.

  • Spyware programs

Spyware programs are some of the most notorious security threats for iPhone users. This is because they download secretly with applications, add-ons, or extensions meant to make programs run smoothly on your device. Once on your phone, they run in the background, spying on your activities and mining data.

In 2016, the Pegasus spyware was used to gain illegal access to Apple devices for secret surveillance. This forced Apple to come up with an emergency security patch to prevent further breaches. Spyware can run in the background for a long time before the user notices.[1]

What you can do

Mobile Security Threats: Antivirus for iPhones and iPads
Image Credit: Safety Detectives

The best way to protect your iPhone against spyware programs is to install a mobile virus security application. These days numerous antivirus companies have programs ideal for mobile devices. Once downloaded, ensure you run security scans or set the security program to run automatic scans at given times. Ensure your security program is updated regularly to protect your iPhone from the latest threats.

  • Public networks
Mobile Security Threats: Public Network
Image credit: AddictiveTips

According to an experiment conducted in 2016 by the US government, at least 70% of users connected to an unsecured/fake network without knowing it.[2]

As more people opt to work remotely, the number of people using public Wi-Fi networks has increased. With free Wi-Fi in coffee shops, airports, public transport, and libraries, cybercriminals have an easier time hacking into unprotected devices on these networks. Public Wi-Fi networks are the most commonly used loopholes for data breaches.

Public networks are also used for spoofing where a user is tricked into joining an imitation network meant to compromise his device. These spoofing networks look like legitimate ones only that a hacker controls them. Once you access the network, you allow the hacker to access your device and steal data.

What you can do

The best way to protect yourself when using a public Wi-Fi network is to download a VPN for security. A VPN creates a secure tunnel for all data exchange between your phone and the websites you visit. This makes the data appear jumbled to any third parties spying on your connection. A VPN is the only sure way of remaining safe on a public network service.

For network spoofing, the best way to avoid the end effect of this threat is to use different passwords for all your accounts. When you access a spoofed account, you are required to login into the network. The hacker used your login details to log into other services since most people use the same credentials everywhere.

To avoid falling victim to network spoofing, have different passwords for all your accounts. Investing in a password management app ensures you have unique passwords for all your accounts.

  • No end-to-end encryption

At least 5.5% of the budget for mobile app development goes toward security. With such a low budget, it is expected that some apps have weak security protocols. Most applications do not offer end-to-end encryption. This makes all data and communication through the app is readable to third parties.

What you can do

Mobile Security Threats: End-to-end encryption

The only solution for end-to-end encryption is only to use apps that offer end-to-end encryption. This is especially important for data transfer and communication.

Bottom line

Mobile devices, including the iPhone, face many security threats. However, there is a lot you can do to protect your data and your device. By following the guidelines in this article, you will be well on your way to protecting your device from the most common security threats today.

Liked this piece? Also read, How To Use Your iPhone as a Mac Webcam.

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Matthew Stern
Matthew Stern

Matthew Stern is a technology content strategist at TechFools, a tech blog aiming at informing readers about the potential dangers of technology and introducing them to the best ways to protect themselves online. 

As a tech enthusiast and an advocate for digital freedom, Matthew is dedicated to introducing his readers to the latest technology trends and teaching them how to gain control over their digital lives.

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