Smartphone Security Checker Released by FCC

By | Dec 27, 2012

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has come up with a list of 10 customized steps that mobile users can follow to secure their devices. These steps have been released in the form of a smartphone security application which may be downloaded onto any iOS, Android, Blackberry, or Windows device. IT professionals will need to be aware of recommendations made by the FCC, lest office employees come calling about how to implement any one of the commission's suggestions.

Just in Time for the Holidays

Jordan Usdan and Kevin Almasy report from the FCC that over 20 million users were expected to unwrap smartphones over the holiday season. This enormous number may be cause for concern considering their claim that cyber attacks are increasing -- there was a notable 367 percent spike in 2011 from the previous year.

In order for cell phones to remain safe, users need to be able to protect themselves. This is why, Usdan and Almasy explain, the FCC teamed up with DHS, NCSA, FTC, CTIA, Lookout, BlackBerry, Chertoff Group, Sophos, McAfee, and Symantec to develop the previously mentioned list of security recommendations.

On the FCC's website, the authors say, users will first select their operating system and download the specific application that will work on their device. Once the application is running, the list of 10 security steps can be followed to help ensure mobile safety. These steps comprise a list of best practices, such as ways to set passwords and how to properly use mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. In addition, there are directions for locating additional security apps that can safeguard data on a device.

Specifically Contained in the App

In an article from CSO, Lucian Constantin goes on to say that FCC suggestions for smartphone security include avoiding changing factory settings, such as rooting or jailbreaking, backing up data in the cloud, and installing regular firmware updates.

He largely praises the suggestions, but does offer one caveat: Not all the recommendations are realistic. Official updates to firmware for an Android phone, he states, may be discontinued when the the operating system changes versions. In this case, the only way to update the phone would be to root the device and manually update the firmware. Obviously, rooting the device goes against one of the FCC recommendations, albeit in search of fulfilling a separate suggestion.

IT in the Fold

Admins at midsize firms need to keep abreast of what steps the FCC is offering smartphone users. Whether or not one's firm subscribes to a BYOD policy, phones in the hands of employees will eventually end up on the IT help desk.

Familiarizing IT staff and educating office employees with security measures is the responsibility of admins. The FCC is providing a list of steps that employees will be following to secure their own phones, so the education process may actually be straightforward, for the time being. Fortunately, getting ahead of this curve may save some headaches, down the line. There is no reason to fret, though, thanks to these clearly defined steps from the FCC.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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