Smartphones are widely used and most people could just about truthfully say, "My life is on my phone." Smart criminals know this, and they know how to use smartphones to obtain private data. A recent example is the malware found in some applications on the Android market recently.
Google had to remove 26 applications from the Android market that contained malware called "DroidDream Light." It's estimated that 30,000 to 120,000 users had downloaded the applications.
This application is particularly dangerous because it works without the user launching the program. The malicious code starts up when the user gets a phone call. The code then begins gathering and transmitting the phone's information, as well as any personal information the phone has stored on it, to a third party server.
The scary part about these trojan devices is that once the application has been activated, the thief has more control over your phone than you do. They can gain access to your identity, your contact list, e-mails and passwords.
What's frustrating is that smartphone users are often so enamored by what their phones can do – computers, books, GPS devices, payment systems, web browsers, radios, iPods – that they don't take the time to install the needed software to protect their devices.
There are some simple things you can do to protect your smartphone, as well as the data it contains. First of all, turn on the auto-lock password protection and corresponding encryption on your phone. If you don't know how, check your owner's manual. Second, enable the remote tracking and remote wiping capabilities, in case the phone is lost or stolen.
Before you download applications for your phone, particularly free ones, you should ask how long the app has been available, and whether the app's publisher is reputable. Does the publisher have other apps that have been successful, or is this the first one? Are there reviews of this app that can help you determine whether it's safe?
The bottom line is this: As a smartphone user, you must adjust your behavior and be smart about the use of your device. Minimize application spying with security software and smart habits such as setting up a password and keeping your phone locked when not in use; avoid using unsecured Wi-Fi connections; never download anything from a source you're not sure about; and delete everything off your phone before you get rid of it.
Smartphones are useful, that's a certainty. But they're just as useful to an identity thief. Don't' ever forget this.