Are your portable devices at risk?

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For work and leisure, we’re rarely away from our connected devices, whether these are laptops, tablets or smartphones. The obvious benefit is that we’re constantly up to date with work and reachable at all times by colleagues, family and friends.

In recent years, businesses have realised this and advertise free Wi-Fi as a way to entice modern professionals into coffee shops and restaurants for business meetings, as well as just a change of scenery. However, it’s likely your device will store confidential information which needs to be protected.

We spoke with Woodstock IT, a partner of ESET, about the increased risks of using portable devices in comparison to the traditional desktop. Did you realise there were extra considerations involved?


Rogue access points


Unfortunately, it’s possible for cyber criminals to access your device by creating rogue Wi-Fi networks that are free to use. Once you connect, they’re in your system and can capture passwords and private information. Woodstock IT owner Julian states: “Always check your Wi-Fi access point and make sure you only use those you trust.

It might be appealing to join a free network when you quickly need to get online and don’t have the data allowance, but it can prove a nightmare for your security. It’s worth being extra vigilant as we haven’t yet got to the point where this is default behaviour as it has never been a consideration with static desktops”.

As ‘tethering hotspots’ may be on the increase, the best solution is to ensure you use trusted protection software that will warn you of hazards and viruses that might be attacking your machine.


USBs on the go

A risk more common for portable devices is malware attacking your machines from USBs, apps and ‘software updates’. Always make sure you use your own reputable brand of USB if you’re storing larger files that you need to access on the go. If you leave it out of sight, it’s possible tampering might occur which will launch on your device when you come to access the corrupted files.

If the malware goes unnoticed, it can then spread to your desktop or other devices when you connect; this is a particular worry if returning to an office environment. Ensure that you do not let anyone you don’t know use USBs on your device and always monitor the screen for their actions.

“USBs are a simple way to gain quick and easy access to a laptop and install viruses. If there is no firewall in place or updated security, it could cause major damage”, adds Julian.

“Be careful not to misplace these small devices, so you can guarantee they’re safe to use and if you should find an unknown device, hand it in, perhaps to IT if at work”.


Download checks


Essentially, you want to ensure that you’re in control of your portable devices and stay aware of what is being installed. You may notice that apps and games normally tell you what they will access eg. phone numbers, location. This information should be provided, especially from popular apps, so if you can’t easily see this detailed, avoid downloading.

“With portable devices, we’re more likely to download applications and because we don’t always view them as IT machines, we can overlook the proper checks. The best rule is if you’re unsure, don’t install”, explains Julian.

It’s also important to always keep your devices in secure bags or pockets when travelling so they aren’t stolen or misplaced. Take time to set-up your portable work area so they’re never out of sight and of course, keep your antivirus software up to date and regularly change your passwords - you can read advice on this here.

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