Mobile Network Security: How to Secure Mobile Networks

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Mobile network security is a top concern as people increasingly rely on their smartphones to access sensitive information. Hackers use everything from SIM card fraud to scam apps in order to steal users’ data and money. Luckily, organizations can take action to protect their networks, devices and employees. What are the biggest threats to mobile network security, and how can you defend against them?

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What is mobile network security?

Mobile network security refers to cybersecurity risks and tools specific to smartphones and tablets. A mobile network is mainly for devices you would connect through a wireless provider, although it can also include hotspots and routers.

The main differentiating factor in a mobile network is portability. Securing portable devices poses unique risks that can be challenging to mitigate, particularly regarding endpoint security.

5 steps for securing mobile networks

How can organizations secure their mobile networks? Specific strategies vary depending on their unique needs, but there are a few core strategies anyone can implement.

1. Conduct a risk assessment

Securing a mobile network requires expanding the visibility of your vulnerabilities. A risk assessment will reveal weak spots and highlight the most significant threats.

A standard risk assessment consists of six basic steps for gathering and analyzing information on your network’s security features. Pay special attention to endpoint security when analyzing mobile networks. Most activity occurs at endpoints, such as smartphones, so this aspect is the most exposed to cybersecurity risks.

2. Secure your routers

Router security is critical for protecting mobile networks. Unsecured Wi-Fi routers can give hackers easy access to your organization’s mobile network and all devices on it. Once inside, they can steal private data or spread malware.

Prevent this by securing your routers. Even something as simple as changing the password can improve security. Many people and even businesses make the mistake of leaving their routers set to weak default passwords, which poses a critical safety risk.

3. Leverage network segmentation and monitoring

Network segmentation is commonly used to create low-security public networks for customers, separate from higher-security employee ones. But you can also use it laterally and internally.

Splitting your network into isolated, secured segments makes it significantly harder for hackers to steal or damage data. It also minimizes the risks associated with weak or compromised endpoint security. Even if a cybercriminal steals an employee’s phone, they can only access limited chunks of information with it.

Network security is best implemented on an organizationwide level but can also be fairly simple. For example, most routers have basic segmentation capabilities that allow users to create a public and private network on the same device.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re performing careful network monitoring. This is another technology that’s particularly useful for ensuring strong endpoint security. Endpoints are among the most challenging risk factors to track in mobile networks since there is such a high volume of devices. Automated monitoring can simplify this by analyzing endpoint activity and filtering out anything suspicious.

4. Provide training on identifying unsafe apps

Unsafe apps can be difficult to spot. Many have extensive advertising online and often appear to be harmless games. There are some red flags you can use to help your team identify and avoid these apps, though.

For example, scam apps are almost always free. The scammers and hackers who create them want people to download them, so they rarely charge a fee. There may be in-app purchase options, though, through which they are able to obtain credit card information and other personal data.

Scam apps also tend to have inconsistent, unreliable performance and low-quality graphics. They may be disguised to look like legitimate pop-ups on your phone. These apps also tend to include excessive calls to action, such as making a payment or providing information to create an account.

5. Secure wireless accounts

SIM swapping is one of the top mobile network security threats today. This attack involves committing fraud by transferring someone’s phone number to a new SIM card without permission. You must take special precautions to prevent this.

Start by getting in touch with your organization’s wireless provider. They will help you set up security measures to verify a user’s identity before allowing any changes to their phone number or SIM. For example, your provider may allow you to set up a PIN system employees can use to authorize any changes to their wireless account or phone number.

Additionally, consider keeping high-risk phone numbers confidential. Hackers need a phone number and personal information to commit SIM swapping. Keeping sensitive phone numbers private and not posting them anywhere online will reduce the risk of fraud attempts.

Even if you are not handling highly sensitive information, confidentiality is a core best practice for good data security. Using encryption tools and minimizing the spread of data can increase privacy and lessen risks. This applies to all personal information, not just phone numbers.

Top 4 mobile security threats

Mobile devices are vulnerable to many of the same threats facing typical desktop computers, such as phishing or malware. There are additional risk factors unique to mobile networks, though. These include SIM swapping, cross-app tracking, scam apps, and unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

1. SIM swapping

Over the past few years, SIM swapping has become one of the most severe mobile network security threats. This fraud strategy involves stealing someone’s phone number by illegally transferring it to a new SIM card in the fraudster’s smartphone. The scammer can then use it to confirm purchases or access financial information.

The fraudster usually leverages personal information available online to accomplish a SIM swapping scheme. For instance, they might use social media to find a victim’s name, address and contact information. Scammers typically choose a target they know will likely have a lot of money or access to valuable data.

2. Tracking and data sharing

Some apps can track activity or share data even when the user is not actively using that app. This cross-app tracking often happens without someone’s knowledge. App developers can use this data to gather personal information or sell targeted ads.

Unauthorized cross-app tracking can pose a serious security risk, particularly if your organization handles sensitive or confidential information. Any type of app can include monitoring and data-sharing features. For example, TikTok has faced extensive security scrutiny over recent years due to concerns about cross-app tracking and cookies. India even banned the app due to data security issues.

3. Scam apps

Some mobile apps are specifically designed to run scams or take users to phishing sites. These apps often come in the form of free games that show users excessive ads. Scam apps are especially likely to feature deceptive ads, such as clickbait designed to look like a legitimate pop-up on your phone.

Scam apps can pose myriad mobile network security risks. They can include cross-app tracking, sharing user data, exposing people to phishing content, stealing personal information and more. In-app purchases can even lead to theft of financial data.

Some scam apps are more obvious than others. For instance, over the past few years, there have been a growing number of ads for games that look nothing like the advertisement shows. The scammers who create these apps put more effort into the ad than the app itself because they simply want people to download it, not play it for long. However, it’s often difficult to tell if the app or game is a scam at first glance.

4. Unsecured Wi-Fi

Public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks are among the most prevalent threats to mobile network security. Hackers can easily exploit these networks to distribute malware or access users’ data without their knowledge. They leverage tactics like ARP spoofing and DNS poisoning to funnel users onto unsafe websites through unsecure Wi-Fi.

Top 3 mobile security solutions

There are many risks facing mobile network security, but you can use various technologies to protect your organization’s devices. These tools will help strengthen endpoint security and increase network visibility.

1. Mobile VPNs

VPNs are one of the most robust tools for protecting mobile devices today. They improve privacy, minimize tracking, strengthen data security and more. A VPN can be a good way to reduce risk factors if you’re concerned about your team using mobile devices on different networks with varying security levels.

There are a wide array of mobile VPNs available today. Top-rated options include:

2. Mobile antivirus apps

Antivirus software is a must-have in laptop and desktop security, but it’s also available for mobile devices. Many people don’t realize they can add antivirus apps to their phones and tablets like on a Mac or PC.

There are a growing number of mobile antivirus apps for Android and iOS with varying prices and features. Bitdefender is a top choice if you’re looking for an app that works on Android and iOS. The mobile version of Bitdefender includes protection from phishing and malicious sites, as well as a built-in VPN.

3. Network monitoring software

Network monitoring software is invaluable for getting a bird’s-eye view of your mobile network and spotting suspicious activity early. There are dozens of great network monitoring programs available today such as SolarWinds, Checkmk, and NinjaOne — so do your research and choose the best one for your particular use case.

You should prioritize endpoint monitoring features for mobile networks in particular. Endpoints are the more vulnerable part of any mobile network and typically the hardest to track. Robust endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions such as SentinelOne, CrowdStrike, and Bitdefender will be invaluable for protecting your network.

Bottom line: Secure mobile networks by focusing on your endpoints

Mobile network security is critical because people are accessing increasing amounts of sensitive data directly from their mobile devices. You can take action to protect your organization’s system by implementing network segmentation, increasing visibility, analyzing risk assessment data and providing users with mobile security tools. VPNs and antivirus apps can go a long way toward securing endpoints.

One of the best ways to protect your mobile networks and devices is with a VPN. See our list of the best mobile VPNs specifically tailored for smartphones and tablets.

Devin Partida
Devin Partida
Devin Partida is a contributing writer for Enterprise Networking Planet who writes about business technology, cybersecurity, and innovation. Her work has been featured on Yahoo! Finance, Entrepreneur, Startups Magazine, and many other industry publications. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.

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