Throughout the world, more and more people are making online purchases with their mobile phones. In 2012, $25 billion was spent on purchases made from mobile devices, which is an increase of 81 percent from 2011. It’s easy to understand the reasons why so many people have begun to shop via their smart devices. After all, a mobile computer offers the selection of internet buying while also allowing the user the freedom to shop while on the go. However, despite the convenience of mobile-commerce, there are still those who are hesitant to take their first steps into smart-device shopping. Especially in the international community, there are those who believe that using a mobile device to make purchases is essentially unsafe.
But is it?
Unfortunately, that’s not an easy question to answer, mostly because online security—whether it be through conventional desktop and laptop computers or mobile smart devices—chiefly depends on the user. Let’s take a look at some of the similarities and differences between Desktop and mobile security.
1. Malware security
In the world of malware, the least secure system is always the one that receives the most attention from cyber criminals. For example, many Apple computer users are under the false impression that Macintosh computers are immune to viruses, when in fact, the hacker community has simply overlooked Apple computers in favor of the more prolific PCs. However, as a new system gains popularity, the criminals’ attention is drawn, and that system becomes less secure. As such, it is easy to claim that currently desktop computers are at a higher risk of attack than mobile phones. However, as mobile phones slowly overtake desktops in popularity, more smart device malware programs are going to be written and released. As such, the level of security, whether it be for a desktop or a mobile device, will depend greatly on how up-to-date your virus protection is, and if you are smart with passwords and other protective measures.
2. Theft protection
One area in which mobile devices fall short is in the same area that defines them. Mobile devices are, after all, mobile. They don’t stay safe and secure in your home when you leave; they come with you. As such, a mobile device is far more likely to be lost or stolen than a desktop or even a laptop computer. But does this make them less secure? Well, not necessarily. Simply by PIN-locking a mobile device, many would-be data thieves can be easily thwarted. LIkewise, apps exist that will allow you to remotely activate a smart device’s GPS to track its current location. As a last ditch solution, one can even remotely erase a device’s hard drive, so that thieves cannot access sensitive personal information such as passwords and credit card numbers. Thus, with a little foresight, the personal risk represented by a stolen phone can be minimized.
3. Network Safety
Mobile devices have a tendency to use a larger number of networks than desktop computers. In addition to the basic network offered by your service provider, mobile users will often set up their devices to take advantage of other nearby networks. These generally are nothing less secure than the relatively safe home wireless networks, but can also include unprotected public networks as well. When any information is sent over a public network, then that information could easily be intercepted and copied by other users on the network. Those who wish to make purchases via a mobile smart device, should first check to make sure that they are not doing so on an open network. The best thing to do is to simply deactivate the wireless function for the duration of the purchase, and instead rely on the service provider’s network. Likewise, any sensitive information sent out over a mobile device should be properly encrypted. This can be done with the help of proper PKI management. Businesses that make use of the cloud database to secure transactions with PKI encryption ensure that any information given by a customer will reach its destination un-intercepted. At the same time, mobile users should make sure that they are only buying from legitimate and encrypted sources, which means only making purchases at sites that have an “S” after the “HTTP” on the web address, which means that the site is secured. Of course, the same goes for anyone making any purchases over the internet, even if they do so from a desktop computer.
In the end, mobile purchases are just as secure or insecure as those made from conventional computers. It all just comes down to how cautious the user is, and how much effort they put into protecting their own data.