5 ways to secure your Blackberry

What do Tom Cruise and the McCain campaign have in common? They have both been bitten by the loss of a Blackberry. Mobile expert Dan Hoffman gives advice on how to keep your cherished mobile device safe, even if it's out of your hands

It seems we can't go a day lately without a new story about some security screw-up involving a lost or misplaced Blackberry. This week, officials with John McCain's campaign mistakenly sold a Blackberry to a Fox television reporter for US$20 in a fire sale. The device contained confidential campaign information. And many Hollywood gossip publications were abuzz earlier this month with news that Tom Cruise had lost his Blackberry while promoting a movie in Toronto. (Mixed reports now peg the device as either "found," or "never lost in the first place.")

With all of these slip-ups, it's no wonder White House officials want President-Elect Barack Obama to relinquish his Blackberry before taking office. With this in mind, CSO asked Dan Hoffman, author, mobile security expert and CTO of SMobile Systems, for his advice on ways to keep your Blackberry safe.

Treat your Blackberry like a PC You wouldn't shop online, open email attachments and check your bank account on your PC without having the proper firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware protections in place, would you? So, why are you doing it with your Blackberry? A Blackberry is a mini computer, said Hoffman.

"The perception that viruses and malware are not a problem on Blackberries is out dated," said Hoffman. "The reason we don't hear about widespread infections is because the nature of malware has changed. Infections used to be done for fun and notoriety. Now these crimes are financially motivated."

Without software that can scan for problems and update virus definitions, Blackberry owners are being quietly infected without even knowing it, said Hoffman. And the creepiest part of that news is that the most popular type malware currently seen on Blackberries is spyware, according to Smobile Systems research.

"Spyware can intercept every email and text message that goes in and out of the device. And it can remotely turn on the phone and listen in on conversations," said Hoffman.

Watch your back Does this sound familiar? You are killing time during a layover in Dallas and are housekeeping on your Blackberry: Checking and responding to work emails, making important work-related calls. Maybe you are even checking your bank account.

"I can't even tell you how much personal and sensitive information I've inadvertently seen or heard over the years because of what people were doing with their mobile devices," said Hoffman.

Hoffman recounts a recent flight where he sat directly behind a Blackberry user who was organizing all of his passwords and entry codes.

"I could see everything though the seats," said Hoffman.

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