Android, iPhone Security: 10 Ways to Avoid Personal Data Theft

News Analysis: With questions being posed over the security of both iPhone and Android apps, it's time to determine how consumers can keep their smartphones safe from malicious hackers when using an iPhone or Droid X.

There is a growing debate among security experts about whether or not the future of data security will reside in the mobile marketplace. Some believe that desktop operating systems, like Windows or Mac OS X, will continue to be hotbeds for malware that attempts to steal sensitive data.

Those on the other side of the debate contend that the mobile marketplace will become an increasingly insecure environment with programs, created by malicious hackers, taking aim at smartphones.

Those who see rising security risks in the mobile world might win the debate. Recently, a report was released by security firm SMobile Systems, claiming as much as 20 percent of all Android Market apps pose a potential security threat.

That study came just days before news broke that Apple's App Store was allegedly defrauded by a developer. Apple claims that no private information was stolen in the attack, but it calls into question just how secure the mobile-computing environment really is.

Realizing that, it's time users start thinking about ways to keep their data on iPhone and Android-based devices secure. At this point, mobile apps themselves won't typically wreak havoc on a device. But it might be easier for malicious hackers to steal data from a smartphone either through holes in apps or intentionally malicious programs than some might think. Here are 10 ways to keep data safe from insecure apps.
1. Keep it reputable

When deciding on apps, it's extremely important that consumers examine user reviews to ensure it's coming from a reputable developer. Although most apps are secure, there are always opportunities for malicious hackers to find their way in. That's precisely why it's important for consumers to only use applications that come from developers they can trust. It's not always easy, since there are so many people making apps for the iPhone and Android-based devices, but consulting reviews and examining app makers' Websites to see if they seem reputable is a good first step.

2. Don't trust anything

Consumers shouldn't expect Apple's App Store or Google's Android Market to only offer safe apps. Although Apple does a fine job of examining apps, there is still a chance that some rogue programs can find their way in. At Black Hat DC earlier this year, a security expert explained how seemingly safe apps can make their way to Apple's App Store and, unbeknownst to the user, wreak havoc on their smartphone. Because of that risk, consumers shouldn't trust any app. Skepticism has saved Windows users for years. That same skepticism must be kept with mobile apps.

3. Keep abreast of new developments

It's extremely important for mobile app users to know what's happening and understand issues when news breaks of mobile-security problems. In the world of security, there is nothing worse than an uninformed user making poor decisions for the sake of being entertained by an insecure application. When news breaks that there have been security breaches with certain applications, or information is leaked about potential issues with a mobile marketplace, consumers must be ready to protect themselves. If they are uninformed, they will put themselves at risk.

4. Secure data with apps

Although some applications cause trouble, there are other programs available in Apple's App Store or Google's Android Market that help users more effectively secure their data. Those apps, upon thorough inspection to judge their trustworthiness, should be used by consumers concerned about potentially losing important information. In most cases, that means downloading data-encryption apps. After encrypting data, consumers will make it much harder for malicious hackers to steal their content.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...