Keep An Eye On The Data Your Mobile Is Sharing With The World

Haseeb Awan
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November 30, 2022
Modified On
April 5, 2023

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Modified On
April 5, 2023

Technology has turned our world into a global village. We are not alone anywhere. We have a mini device in our pockets every time, which tracks the outer environment and the internal environment. The internal environment includes our thinking, likes, dislikes, etc. The internet was the breakthrough of the '90s. Today everyone has a mobile phone; even when you go to a village area of a developing country, you will see a smartphone in every home. Life has changed from a non-technological world to data sharing world. Life was so simple before technology. Now the availability of personal data and geolocation on the internet raises the alarming situation for the security of users. The mobility and behavioral patterns of a single human can be accessed easily. 

As everything is interconnected, it is becoming more complicated. Corporations and governments rely on technology to extract data from users and use them for their benefit. Artificial intelligence, bioengineering machines, and digital technologies have reduced human interaction. It is more social nowadays but with technology. With the rapid pace of technological development, it is the hour of need to make rules for global data flows. This is an exciting time of technological advancements. But still, there are questions regarding social, economic, and political aspects of how best the data can be protected.

Importance of Data:

Data can be in the form of pictorial representation or the form of our geographical location. One single amount we are sharing with anyone is sharing with the world. There are gigantic data files that store vast amounts of data every second. Your life is an open book. One can easily access the data where you are going, to whom you are meeting and where you spend days and nights. Every child has a spy in their pocket who is tracking everything. Large corporations are using users' data for their benefit. Buying behaviors led the companies to make products accordingly. Corporations are using data as a marketing technique. In a developed country, the United States, collecting and selling information is perfectly legal. It is in the company's ethical standards to share the data only with prospecting partners; we believe in this as a society.

Data Usage By Corporations:

Their reservation of data is our life diary. The companies claim that users agreed on themselves for tracking, and the data they provide is anonymous and secure. The claim of anonymous data is false. Consider the location tracking. Who will be travelling daily from a single home to the workplace? Paul Ohm, a law professor and privacy researcher at Georgetown University, said: "Really precise, longitudinal geolocation information is impossible to anonymize." What's the purpose of collecting all the information regarding the consumer's location? Companies and corporations use this tool to analyze people's behavior, likes, dislikes and buying power. For example, if you visit a hospital daily, you might need medicines, masks, gloves, etc. Companies can assess this and send you advertisements through email or text messages. That's why I have said earlier that companies know the inner environment. If someone is from an underdeveloped country with low income, the corporations can quickly assess the buying power of customers. This will help in making products accordingly. Demographic information like age, gender, zip codes, and phone numbers are collected by the company to initiate target marketing. That's why data is essential for modern corporations.

Moreover, the service providers (Network companies) have all the user's data. Zong was the first overseas network acquisition of China in Pakistan in 2008. Collecting users' information, address, communication patterns, and locations made China the biggest importer of Pakistan. China is the most developed economy in the world, and its strategy of using data for the benefit of the economy is quite impressive. Research by the New York times institute discovered that if we open our phone's location, our neighbors can also be tracked along with ourselves. So, by sharing all this data, we not only alarm the privacy situations for ourselves and others. When companies use location data for target marketing, privacy risks amplify.

Mobile Data Security & Threats:

"Information is anonymous" is the claim by location data companies. The question arises here that data can be hacked easily. Is it secured or protected? Sensitive information can easily be leaked or hacked. If a person is mentally disturbed by physical abuse, his exposed information can be embarrassing. Every organization adheres to 3 elements of data security. 

  1. Confidentiality
  2. Integrity
  3. Availability

Liam Hanham, data science manager at workday, explained this strategy, which business corporations are using to obtain consumers data: "Customer data can be collected in three ways: by directly asking customers, by indirectly tracking customers, and by appending other sources of customer data to your own,"

Mobile data security must include no sharing of consumer data with other persons. It should be in the security terms of every corporation. There must be secure ways to use smartphones confidentially without any risk of private leakage of information. We will discuss privacy risks and malicious attacks under the subheading privacy issues.

How Mobile Is The Source Of Data Sharing?

When you are using your phone, you are tracing yourself there. Several applications demand location and contact information. Several Android mobile phone applications, such as riskware apps, are in the play store. Users grant them inclusive permission without checking the security. Some apps are advertisements and send the user's data to servers at the back end. Corporations can use this data, or sometimes cyber criminals use the data too. More than having a smartphone is required. You have to keep a firm eye on the data mobile are sharing with the world. Another type of data sharing is leaked information in unrecognizable applications. If you transfer files from two different software like iOS and android, most valuable data can be leaked without notifying the user. 

Sometimes when we use the phrase "nothing is free in this world", we still find free Wi-Fi. But be cautious; free Wi-Fi is not secure. It comes at the cost of our privacy and security. An experiment on security threats of free Wi-Fi was conducted in Great Britain. Three politicians who participated in the experiment had their data easily hacked after using free Wi-Fi. Even all the accounts' passwords, social media accounts, and conversations were hacked. Sometimes hackers place an accessible link in the phone. By clicking such a link, all the data can be extracted. Mobile phone users are more vulnerable to these attacks than computer users. Our mobile phone can be hacked when we open something strange, an unknown link or an email sender. Because of the mini screen, we can't even recognize it. Like viruses in computers, there is malware in mobile phones too. This malware detects the person and tracks his information to the back-end server. 

There is a plea against mobile developers if they use low algorithms or fail to apply proper encryption, then there might be a threat of vulnerability of mobile phones to hackers. The failed encryption is not your fault, but these applications can produce a secret back door which hackers can exploit. Improper session handling can obtrude security risks. Anyone who has access to the phone can manipulate the user's data. The information we leave on the internet is in the form of a digital footprint. 

Digital Footprints:

Electronic footprints are the traces of data you leave while using the internet. It is in the form of a digital trail. For example, Online shopping, subscription to newsletters, or directory. It can be active on social media or passive in the form of permanent information on websites. A digital footprint is an easy tool to assess the activity of any person. Like employees' activities can be seen through it before hiring. Data storage can be risky for prospective students or job holders. Also, if the leaked digital footprint goes into the public, scandals result in losing relationships and friendships. Words or pictures in social media can be misinterpreted, causing harm to people associated with them. Examples of Digital footprint: Online shopping, subscription to newsletters, online accounts, social media, oversharing, and Information sources that mention you. 

We can associate technology with global change. It is changing our society. It is a challenge to keep an eye on the data our mobile is sharing with the world. As there are benefits of technology, life has been made so easy, but there are some pitfalls too. These hidden dangers are for every social, economic, and financial institution, like Artificial Intelligence and the dark web, which is the source of information. 

The following link represents the illustration of worldwide mobile traffic till 2022 (https://www.statista.com/statistics/277125/share-of-website-traffic-coming-from-mobile-devices/) 

Data Through Artificial Intelligence:

Artificial intelligence is the duplication of human intelligence processes by computers. Think of a robot car. If it is running on the road and there are two people in front of it, one is 80 years old, and the other is an 8-year-old child, who will the car hit? It depends upon the information processor already designed for a car. Artificial intelligence is ruling the world. It is very beneficial for the development of technology. Think of a person having cancer, and in a sec, through artificial intelligence, his phone or microchip in the smartwatch can detect health problems. It is beneficial, but it is dangerous too. It will reduce the importance of people in the world. The presence of any occupation will not matter because there will be machines everywhere. 

Through artificial intelligence, corporations are extracting data from everyone. Let's take an example of social media. Suppose you are using an Instagram account and considering buying a dress. In that case, you will suddenly start seeing advertisements regarding new dresses, or you will start seeing discounts or online shops. You can observe yourself. Talk to your friend using a mobile phone about buying a badminton kit, and you will see the pages selling game kits online. It means corporations have access to your minds. What you are thinking is probably you don't know, but corporations are the first ones to recognize that. That's how organizations are collecting data through artificial intelligence. This data can be manipulated by the companies quickly.  

Data On The Dark Web:

The internet is in the form of an iceberg. There is a surface web that can be visible and accessed by everyone, and there is a deep dark web that is not visible to everyone. The deep dark web contains information on remote private sites. The data can be used legally or illegally. If leaked, the anonymous activity on the site will pose a risk to the politicians. For example, there are two opposing parties in the country, and one party uses the deep dark web to gather information about the other and release it in front of the public. The public can misinterpret the information, and all the votes can go to the other party. That's why data on the deep web is dangerous. 

Politicians and modern organizations use the deep dark web to discuss important private matters. The deep dark web is unidentifiable by google or other search engines. It might be protected by security walls or by passwords. These are hidden because these sites contain;

  • Financial information of firms
  • Private conversations on consumer's social media accounts
  • Sensitive information
  • Enterprises databases
  • Legal information

Privacy Issues:

We are living in an advanced surveillance world. Technology has posed a risk to many consumers. This surveillance world was created based on the profit-making rule. The main motive is to make money, and technology companies play a trick on users to surveil themselves. The data can be used demographically along nations or internationally too. 

Different Nation's Views On Data Security:

Governments of every country need to regulate laws for corporations about data usage, sale, and sharing of information. According to Braman 2009: "Nations around the world have taken very different approaches to govern emerging technologies and have adopted a range of different technologies themselves in pursuit of more modern governance structures and processes" For example,

The European Union's general data protection regulation has devised rules to protect data from existing threats and future developments like artificial intelligence.

Germany's data protection regulation SUVs is regularly inspecting any threat. They are ensuring that every user's data must be confined within the wall of one corporation. As technology evolves, their mechanisms of data protection also evolve.

The United States has a different mechanism of data regulation. There is a much greater reliance on lawsuits and obligations in the United States of America to address safety and security flaws.

California consumer act is similar to the European union's general data regulation, and it affects corporations, not consumers. Internal decision-makers do not make a policy, but the state makes laws for data sharing.

Virginia consumer data protection act also focused on the onus of consumers and made the rule that after using the data, corporations have to remove consumers' data permanently.

Colorado Privacy act also goes into effect with the above two laws. In addition to the consumer's opt-out, it also focuses on data-based marketing. Corporations are advised to display privacy notices to consumers. 

These different examples show the different priorities of data security. These regulation mechanisms measure technological advancements vs data privacy. There is much more pressure on technological companies worldwide from non-governmental organizations. For example, the international telecommunication union makes rules, standards, and ethics and sets boundaries to secure data. Failure to abide by these laws may face fines of up to 4% of their revenues or 20 million euros.

Steps To Protect Your Data

As far as the discussion was concerned with data sharing and data leakage around the world. We have learned that technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, posing a greater risk to data security and privacy. We have discussed different issues regarding data privacy. We have discussed how corporations are using data for their benefit. And lastly, how governance rules are being made in favor of consumers internationally. Now let's take a look at different ways of data protection:

Stop Sharing the Location of Mobile

Many applications, before making an account ask to access the location. The first step you need to do is to disable every location-sharing application on your mobile phone. It will not track the person using the phone. Many applications like weather or news demand location; there is no need to share location because these can work fine without location. 

To turn off location, go to settings>privacy>location services.

Disable Mobile Ad ID

Mobile ad ID is tool companies use for advertising messages. Along with location, companies can get these Ids and locate your data. Turn off the ad ID in the privacy section of the mobile. Go to settings>privacy>Limit tracking Id.

Turn Off Google Location Sharing

Google location sharing is an option in the settings of mobile phones. When you use any google account if it asks to open the location for navigation, only open it if it is not needed. If there is a dire need to use google location, then remember to turn it off. It will give a clear trace to hackers or anyone trying to use your device for cybercrime.

Continuous Check for Updates in Privacy Settings 

Every mobile company updates its operations regularly. Sometimes mobile settings are updated themselves. If there is no monitoring, there will be no updates. Try to monitor the updates continuously and change privacy settings. Updates will always help keep you safe regarding the advancements in the environment or a need of the hour.

Enable Device Wiping

If your phone gets lost, take quick action to wipe the data of your phone. Track the phone and try to enable the device to wipe itself. It will keep your sensitive data safe and protected. Also,  could you enable it before getting lost? Sometimes there is data saved in the back end of the phone we didn't know so enabling device wiping will also not let any malicious act into action.

Have a Strong Password on All Devices

The most accessible form to protect is to have a strong password on all devices. Use different numbers, underscores, and different letters on different patterns. It will not allow anyone to try to open it in any case. One best thing Microsoft did was lock the phone if the wrong password was tried thrice. The phone locked us permanently and only the owner of it can open it. Using a password manager will help you generate your passwords and keep a record in case you forget.

Never Use a Free Wi-Fi

Nothing is free in this world; if you find free Wi-Fi you will be harming the sensitive data of your device. Sometimes hackers use tricks to engage people towards free Wi-Fi so that they can get access to the device. They can install any malware on the phone. If you notice the phone is connected with free Wi-Fi, you will get notifications you probably still need to learn about. Beware of those malware links.

Disable Automatic Uploading

Sometimes your pictures and videos automatically upload on social networks when connected to the internet or Wi-Fi. Disable this option to protect your sensitive pictures. If you are unaware of the uploading, it might cost you your reputation. 

Disable Bluetooth and Mobile Data When Not in Use

Bluetooth is a sharing connection. Disable it when not in use. Most threats are data exploitation from Bluetooth sharing for malicious acts. These threats are not devastating but they are certainly disturbing and inconvenient. Bluetooth or mobile data attacks can vanish with just a simple click; disable them. 

Install Anti-Malware Protection on Mobile Phone

We have learned a lot about anti-viruses on our computers. The same is the case with mobile phones. Install anti-malware protection for cross-security of data. Most applications are in the play store or iOS to provide malware protection on mobile phones. There is no need to buy a premium package because it provides a minimal and basic level of protection for free. Malware scanning helps in reducing any suspicious URLs. 

Check Push Notification Settings on Mobile Devices

Push notifications are the notifications that appear on the home screen of your phone. Keep checking those notifications about your favorite applications. It might tell something of your interest. You can keep an eye on the data by watching the notifications. In android go to setting>Notifications>open on the lock screen. For example, if you are using an application for health, you might be interested in any issues regarding health, so keeping track of the data will protect it from invaders.

Enable Touch ID

Touch ID is the most interesting for me because it's the best way to protect a phone's data. Unless other measures are adopted inside the phone, Technically fingerprint is unique for everyone and can't be stored anywhere. If you use iPhone, then you must enable touch ID. The touch ID is converted into a mathematical expression and is never backed up by any app, even not stored in iOS. 

Set Up Content Filters

If you want your data to be secured and protected by someone having a close relationship, you can use content filters. These filters will not allow any of private content. And in iPhone, there is a setting that allows you to set up content filters so if you are even away from your phone, you will get a notification for that.

Set Devices to Automatically Lock

Go into Settings> Privacy> Locked phone>Time. This will help in securing the phone. For example, if someone opens the phone and tries to find something, it will automatically be locked after 15 sec of inactivity. 

Use an On-Device Personal Firewall

You can install a personal firewall on your mobile phone. It will help protect data from any attack.

 Do virtual shopping carefully.

If you are interested in online business, do it carefully. Some online sites contain ads; if you click on them, there will be a risk of a virus attack. Also, some online applications demand personal information and always try to buy from trusted and authentic websites. These websites only use data for their own purposes. Try to avoid it.

Limit the Amount of Data You Share Online

Some people are crazy about sharing data on social media. Think twice before sharing anything regarding the location, travel plans, or personal information. It is not a good idea to tell your secrets publicly online. Anyone can manipulate this very quickly. 

Avoid Unsafe Websites

Avoid logging in to unsafe websites. If you need to know which website is safe or unsafe, install a malware detector. It will send you a signal any time your device detects a virus or attack on the data. 

Delete Old Accounts

If your old accounts are not in use, including social media accounts, you should delete them forever. Anyone can try to harm you through these accounts. If you have critical data, you should back it up somewhere safe. 

Do Not Log In with Facebook/Avoid Linking Apps

This is a common mistake we all make. Linking applications with each other or any other application will prove to be risky. Because it will open the doors and make the account vulnerable to attack. You will make a bridge between your data and businesses. Everyone has a google account these days. Use that for more security.

Re-Consider Free Apps and Platforms

If you are using free apps and platforms, Beware! It can be harmful to your data. Keep an eye on the data which is shared on free platforms. These free applications might be selling your data to businesses. For example, some gaming applications are free like slack, but at the back end, they are selling your data. So, the advice is to avoid free platforms.

Sign Up for Unimportant Memberships with Fake Information

You can use this trick if you don't trust the website, don't use your real name. Use fake names or information so that if a breach occurs, it will not harm that much with accurate information.

Be Wary of Text Messages

Text messages can be used as a target for mobile malware. Don't send private data like credit card details or anything sensitive. Also, beware of the texts you received. Some can be fraud and manipulation too. A victim of fake text can be misguided to share personal information. He thinks it is a business activity, but it will actually prove harmful to him. Avoid tapping links in solicited emails or texts.

Use a Virtual Private Network for Sensitive Files

Finally, in the end, use VPN. The virtual private network can help secure a digital footprint. VPN can change the IP address which makes your digital footprints untraceable. It also blocks cookies to protect privacy. 

How To Secure Devices And Networks:

As there are tips on securing mobile phones, another way of protecting data is to use specific ways to protect devices and networks. Devices include laptops, personal computers, internet devices, and tablets. Hackers mostly try to invade through other devices. Because on big screens it is straightforward to see everything. The small screen of mobile phones sometimes hides the complete information. If a window or back door is open, the device becomes more vulnerable to such acts. In the greed of free networks, people pose risks to their sensitive data. That's why most corporations use a code language to communicate within the organization. Only the managers and stakeholders know the code language. This mostly happens in military operations. They use code language even with the officers of their wing. Because disguise can occur anytime, anywhere in the world. Breaches of data still occur. Suppose you have any doubt that data might be breached act very fast. If any transactions/ financial information are involved, then change your bank account passwords immediately. Change any of the passwords that are on board. Contact your bank officials. They are more trained in handling such breaches. Call 911/police and report immediately. If any employee is involved then investigate him or check his transactions. The crux of the matter is to keep an eye on the data your mobile/devices/networks share with the world. 

Here Are Some Tips To Secure Other Devices And Networks:

  • Encrypt your data: Data encryption is something we associate with technology experts and mathematicians. The best method to protect devices is to encrypt data. Data encryption tools are helpful in windows like GPG for mail and true crypt. Microsoft has already installed this software on its personal computers and other devices. It quickly encrypts and secures emails. In the new operating system of Microsoft, there is a File Vault that helps in protecting the hard drive of the computer and scrambling the data. 
  • Backup of the data: As a famous saying goes: "Prevention is better than cure" represents that the plan is necessary before the time. As a corporation, you must have a backup of your data. Most small enterprises do not have a disaster recovery plan. They suffer after the loss of essential data. Data recovery costs more than having a backup from the very start. So, why lose revenue in recovering when you have a primary method to protect data?
  • Destroy old hard drives: When you have shifted from one device to another, then in order to protect the data, make your old hard drives unreadable. You can use software wipe to clean the disk, sanitize by disk shredding, and magnetically clean the disk.
  • Protect wireless Wi-Fi: If you are a small enterprise, then it is necessary to secure your wireless connection with a strong password. It will help keep away the persons hijacking your personal information and the ones who tried to use the free network. Install firewall software to protect files and ask your employees to do the same if remotely working. It prevents outsiders from accessing data.
  • Disable sharing options: disable file or media sharing options if you do not need them. Disable any software or Bluetooth device if not in use. If your computer is connected to anywhere, a hacker might be able to attack sensitive files. You can also set sharing options to close automatically after transferring files. It will help in reminding you to keep files safe. 
  • Permanently delete files: There is a chance that files are still available on the computer even if you delete them. Some crimes also occur in history about breaching personal data and manipulating it for their use. The best way to avoid this is to overwrite the deleted files. There is software available online to do this like PCWorld contains tools to delete files permanently. 
  • Cloud backups: Also, remember to delete old files from cloud backup. If there is a backup of your chats, pictures, videos, and documents, then it is stored in cloud backup. Protecting your accounts will reduce the chances of embarrassment faced after getting manipulated or harassed by someone. So, the best way is to delete cloud backups. 

Are iPhones Safer Than Android Phones?

A common question arises in the minds of which phone is more secure. Whether to buy an android mobile or an iPhone. Many manufacturers make Android mobile. This is no single enterprise owning it. Apple makes iPhone. If we compare both manufacturers, the android phone is more vulnerable than the iPhone. Because of many manufacturers, there can be some loopholes in the system which provide a back door to the other end user. Secondly, Microsoft didn't have any of these issues because of a single manufacturer. Still, hackers or data leakage can occur anywhere, so you need protective gear on both phones.

Conclusion

The challenge is to keep an eye on the data your mobile is sharing with the world. The data can be from sensitive documents, pictures, videos, and conversations. The debate is what are the threats and how to secure them. For individuals, data leakage costs friendships, relationships, integrity, etc., but for a small business or a large corporation, data breaching results in the loss of the whole career, future, financial loss, or permanent wiping out from the business world. For a politician, data leakage costs the loss of a political career or a position in a party. Whatever the costs are, it is always the best advice to work before the loss. To have a disaster recovery plan before the disaster. There are several tips to secure accounts, devices, and networks. 

Mobile phone is as dangerous as handy. If you own a social media account, it means your life will now be an open book. You can use that as a self-diary. With the technological advancements in the world, fraud and breaches are also advancing. People find new ways to disrupt their everyday lives. The data mobile is sharing can be misinterpreted in many places. People manipulate it for their benefit.

Along with it, several advances like artificial intelligence, biochemical engineering, and the dark web are working on the available data. Mobile phone is the source of such acts. Its users are just experiments for companies and corporations. What we are thinking, our behavioral pattern is their tool to gain more profit and produce products. 

To summarise the whole discussion, there are use and misuse of everything. Technology and mobile are the ones. There are several ways to keep an eye on the data mobiles share with the world, whether it is from social media or in the form of data. The best technique is to have a security wall around it. It will minimize the risk of being stolen.

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Haseeb Awan
CEO, Efani Secure Mobile

I founded Efani after being Sim Swapped 4 times. I am an experienced CEO with a demonstrated history of working in the crypto and cybersecurity industry. I provide Secure Mobile Service for influential people to protect them against SIM Swaps, eavesdropping, location tracking, and other mobile security threats. I've been covered in New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Hulu, Nasdaq, Netflix, Techcrunch, Coindesk, etc. Contact me at 855-55-EFANI or haseebawan@efani.com for a confidential assessment to see if we're the right fit!

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