Smartphone 101 – Secure Your Smartphone

Smartphone 101 – Secure Your Smartphone
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Kok Kee

The enthusiastic nanoelectronic engineer who found his way into simplifying the world of tech for everyone. Introverted, but noisy. Nice to meet you!
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We’ve seen many types of security problems in the past, and we’re pretty familiar with what’s going on within the scene. I’ve personally seen way too many problems caused by carelessness and lack of attention given to what’s going to happen. Some of the problem is caused by pure ignorance. Here are some tips to secure your smartphone on the internet. It’s pretty much the same story when it comes to your Macs or PCs too.

This is a comprehensive guide by an average user, for average users. It’s by no means a foolproof guide – just advises,

In short, there are a few major causes on smartphone security these days. Once these causes are known, it’s not really difficult to find out the solution either. Here I’ve listed 5 common issues which caused people to encounter endless problems because they never secured their smartphone.

  1. Executing malicious files
  2. Rooted device
  3. Fake/notorious apps

Let’s briefly go through each and everyone of them, and see how you can do to secure your smartphone from being a victim of such issues.


Executing malicious files

This is by far the oldest trick in the book. Take a look at any other tips on how to secure your smartphone online, you’ll see the tip relating to malicious files most of the time. Some of these articles are taken out of whack too – and the most ridiculous one I’ve seen in the past is proving the file is malicious by opening some files with a text file reader. Doubt that’s how it works though.

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I included the word “executing” here because the only way a malicious file can somehow “work” is because downloaded files won’t “run” everywhere. Files distributed online these days are mostly zipped, so it’s contained. You can then run antivirus scans on the zip file itself – any antivirus would be okay, like Sophos Home – and secure your smartphone from there instead.

Else if you really need that file, perform whatever experiment you want with that file in a VM environment.


Rooted device

This is a little new in terms of security. Rooting and jailbreaking actually means the same thing – gaining root or superuser access to your device’s system. That means all of the system files and parameters can be altered without your consent. For those who had their smartphones jailbroken or rooted – do take note of this and make sure you know what you’re doing.

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Also, it relates very well to the first point too. If your device is rooted, these malicious files somehow has a brand new world open to them. These malicious files can embed themselves into the system itself, and you can’t clean it with a factory reset too. A complete storage wipe and a fresh system image is needed to restore functionality. The direct example to this issue is when I found out imported Xiaomi smartphones have adware and malicious app built into the system itself, and no amount of factory resets can solve it. I also documented my method to fix it.


Fake/notorious apps

This relates really well with piracy alongside with altered apps and the points above. Firstly, these altered APKs are generally much more appealing compared to the official version available on the Google Play Store instead. This is especially true for games like Neko Atsume for example. That’s because the entire app itself has been altered to have unlimited currencies or with all the ads removed.

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That might seem like a good thing too – there’s no need to pay for any in-app purchases, and you get everything. After a short while when the game turns stale, just uninstall it. However, do note that on the surface, these observable alterations are known to us – but what about other alterations that we might have missed?

Most of the time these apps have a toast notification when the app has been launched. It displays the name of whoever that did the modification, and then the apps ran as usual. It’s great to see these things happening but damn, did you know Pokemon Go had similar situation during its initial launch? There were fake versions of the app being distributed around the globe, and it actually tracks and listens to your calls, as documented by Sophos. This is some next level scary stuff.


Wrap up

There is no solid foolproof way to secure your smartphone. It’s just impossible as hackers – be it good or evil – will always try to outsmart each other. In this digital era, these battles are inevitable, and it’s never going away. We can prevent it from happening, and prevention is always better than cure.

The only things we can tell you, is to learn from these tips, and secure your smartphone. Again, it doesn’t just apply to smartphones – it’s pretty much the same story when it comes to your Macs or PCs.

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