American consumers love tablets and so do hackers. The 2013 Javelin Strategy & Research Identity Fraud Report found that tablet users in the U.S. are 80% more likely to be victims of identity fraud than all consumers – 9.6% compared to 5.3%.
According to the report, tablet users are constantly targeted by cyber crooks who exploit software vulnerabilities, use malware and phishing attacks, and compromise unsecured WiFi connections to steal their sensitive information.
That’s what these hacking victims who posted to Mac Rumors’ and Android Central’s forums found out the hard way:
“I put the ipad into sleep mode at 1am … I wake up this morning and turn on my ipad … I entered my 4 DIGIT PASSCODE to unlock the ipad and I click the safari app in the dock and 9 pages of history automatically opened up to sites i had never been to… so freaking out, I check my email and sadly someone had ordered around $8,373.00 through my Amazon.com account … How could this happen?”
“Need help. Have two tablets android … today it was like someone was using my tablet without my notice … when I looked at the screen it was typing and opening, this quite scary … is it a hacking virus … have installed three [anti]virus programs but nothing to find when I scan.”
Tablets: Great for Connecting on the Go but Not Secure
Over half of tablet users in the United States say tablets are their favorite devices, according to Adobe data. But what users don’t understand is that, while tablets can do more than smartphones – making them a better choice for laptop replacement – they’re not any more secure than smartphones. Yet a 2011 Harris Interactive survey revealed that nearly one out of every two tablet users transmits sensitive information – including credit card, personal, financial, and proprietary business information.
Even worse, a 2012 report from Juniper Research found that only five percent of tablets and smartphones worldwide have security software installed. That raises a huge red flag for organizations that have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy – especially when their employees use tablets at WiFi hotspots. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.
More than one out of every six hotspot connections is made from tablets, according to a 2012 report released by the Wireless Broadband Alliance. Because most public WiFi networks are unsecure, that means cybercriminals can use them to grab your sensitive information if you do nothing to protect yourself.
Make Sure Your Tablet Doesn’t Get You Into Trouble at Hotspots
Hackers know tablet owners are less likely than laptop owners to keep their devices secure. They also know that adult tablet users are more affluent on average than laptop users and they spend more when they shop online. That makes them especially vulnerable to identity theft and credit fraud at WiFi hotspots.
So, if you’re a tablet user, make sure you have the most up-to-date operating system version and, where possible, antivirus and anti-malware software. Hackers use sophisticated tools to crack passwords. So only use long, strong passwords composed of letters, numbers, and symbols.
If you’re thinking of downloading apps to increase your tablet’s functionality, remember that hackers can use bad apps to install malware on your device. So only download apps from trusted sources.
Tweak your tablet’s settings so that you have to manually, not automatically connect to new WiFi networks.
Make sure the hotspot you’re connecting to is the real one, not a fake designed to steal your data. And turn off your WiFi when not in use.
Finally, never expose your sensitive information at WiFi hotspots without using VPN software. A Virtual Private Network gives you a secure way to surf the Web by encrypting all the data traveling to and from your device.
The simplicity and portability of tablets have revolutionized the way we connect to the Internet and communicate for work and play. That’s why tablet sales are expected to surpass laptop sales for the first time this year.
But unless tablet users take the time to secure their devices, the number who become victims of identity theft and credit fraud is likely to be even higher in the coming years.