Smartphones Are Multifunctional Devices Computer Science Essay

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Smartphones are multifunctional devices that host assorted and various information. In recent years, smartphone becomes more attractive device as it have the functionality of both mobile phones and Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). It also supports computer services such as browsing, e-mail services, video calls etc. However, the mobile platform's usage is wide in range which is attractive for security attacks. Now-a-days research on smartphone security have become very famous. In this paper, the advantages of smartphone are discussed and described about the vulnerabilities and threats of smartphone security then remedies for attacks from external and internal to keep the phone safe and secure. Also explained the security measures in the olden days, present , future states and covered the policies, techniques of security.

1 Introduction

A smartphone is a cell phone built on a mobile operating system, which provides numerous computing ability and connectivity than a basic feature phone. Several feature phones are capable to progress operations supported on platforms like Java ME whereas smartphone provides the customer to inaugurate and run many excellent applications established on a particular platform.

The main benefits of a smartphone is, users can promote any programs which are built in specific needs. By using smartphones, customers have various advantages such as browsing, sending/ receiving e-mails and its attachments, bank services, location information, live updates like trains , bus timings etc when connected to wireless network or mobile data.

In order, to support these services, smartphone requires confidential data than feature phone. So it is really essential to maintain smartphones protected. If a user missed his smartphone, all the information like contact details, e-mails, browser history , Short Message Service (SMS) , Multi Message Service (MMS), bank accounts etc possibly be revealed if there is no applicable protection.

In order to restrict the potential vulnerabilities of smartphone, security threats supporting the smartphone environment is required. This paper examines the analysis of the security of smartphone and proposed countermeasures to avoid risks.

2 Environments of Smartphone

Smartphone can connected to different devices such as personal computers, internet, laptops, other cell phones. A smartphone can be connected to computer with the help of a cable or wireless network and to other mobiles using bluetooth. This advantage makes smartphone innumerable benefits and famous than that of feature phones.

On the other hand, this factor can be responsible for malicious attacks as the user may transfer data, share pictures/files, browsing unsecured websites, downloading files etc. when connected to any device. These can be considered as target and mean of attack. Moreover , personal computers or web server can be beneficial as a manager to corrupt a smartphone with malware. Hence for a smartphone security these things have to take into account.

3 Vulnerabilities of Smartphone

A vulnerability is a weakness that admits an attacker to reduce a system's information assurance. To attack a smartphone , there are different approaches for attackers which are discussed below:[Egners, et al. ]

3.1 Applications

Smartphone platforms risks to the most uncompromising source of attacks by browsing or opening third-force applications and by running untrusted code which has not been coded by a person or a company. Based on the platform, this can be native or interpreted code or both. Hackers may be aiming smartphone with spyware, viruses ,worms and all types of malware. Although these threats are common in personal computers, it's the latest threats for cell phones which can be avoided by using preinstalled applications of particular operating system.

3.2 Internet :

Internet is the first source of attack for personal computers which is identical for the smartphone as well. The infected devices are directly communicated by the attackers in any of the two ways : with the help of application to download content from a server and by push notification service like iOS, Windows Phone 7, Android. Web or media file browsers is one of the sources of attacks. Downloading or opening unprotected files (like PDF) by the system automatically without the user's permission causes the smartphone to attack virus.

3.3 E-mail, SMS

Assuming a genuine phone number and sending a malicious SMS is one of the ways of attacking a mobile phone. Some messages may not be displayed straight away but it causes virus in the phones using a binary content. Emails including links to malicious websites and risky attachments can exploit vulnerabilities of the operating system.

3.4 Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

Now-a-days, the best property of smartphones is Wi-Fi accessibility which can be easily connected to networks to transfer data, browsing. But make sure while connecting whether the connection is secure or not. Corrupting or modifying information on the wireless network can be done by sniffing or spoofing. Bluetooth is used to connect to other mobile devices which is also not secure and attacks virus from one phone to other phone and also allows SMS, phone book manipulations etc.

3.5 USB

In many instances, smartphones are connected to personal computers for charging phones, synchronizing many events, transfer data from phone to computer or vice-versa. In this case, virus can transfer from one device to other device easily.

4 Threats of Smartphone

A threat is a warning of probable trouble that may exploit a vulnerability. The two types of threats are: Threats caused by attackers and Threats caused by user unawareness. Below is the table showing threats of smartphone: {{12 Jeon, Woongryul 2011}}

Table 1. Threats caused by attackers



T1. Malware

Malware can alter or expose private information in smartphone

Malware can risk availability by meaningless operation(e.g. arbitrary code execution)

Malware can abuse costly services and functions(e.g. sending SMS/MMS, connecting wireless network)

T2. Wireless

Network Attack

An attacker can corrupt, block or modify information on the wireless network by sniffing, spoofing or eavesdropping

T3. Denial of


An attacker can risk availability of smartphone to take denial of service attack to base station, wireless network,

web server

An attacker can risk availability of smartphone using radio interference

T4. Break-in

An attacker can gain partial or full control over the target smartphone by using flaw of code, code injection or abuse of logic error

Table 2. Threats caused by user unawareness



T5. Malfunction

The user can disable or malfunction his/her application by mistake or misappropriate configuration

Smartphone application can malfunction by incompatibility between platform and application.

T6. Phishing

The user can expose his/her private information by accessing phishing site

The user can expose his/her private information by messenger phishing

The user can expose his/her private information by SMS phishing

T7. Loss

The user can lose his/her smartphone

T8. Platform


The user can alter his/her smartphone platform intentionally (e.g. jail breaking in iPhone, rooting in android phone)

5 Countermeasures to avoid risks

Various security industries have solved the security issues for smartphones which involve antivirus software and intrusion detection systems which run on the smartphone. These protections can avoid the phone from external risks like malware but cannot stop internal attacks due to user unawareness or some other ways. Hence to have a virus free smartphone, different security measures has to be taken like frequent updates, platform modification etc.

Based on realization approaches, security measures are classified into three types which are shown in the below table :

Table 3. Types of Approach



System Modification

Require altering platform’s core source-code including the kernel

Advantage : available new functionalities

Disadvantage : Relatively expensive in terms of man power and


System add-on

Require modification of platform’s core configuration file

Advantage : more easier than system modification

Disadvantage : To adopt this modification, smartphone user have

to re-install all applications

Add-on Applications

Can be applied by any user by simply installing an application

Advantage : easy to adopt

Disadvantage : If user does not install this application, there is no

improvement in security

System modification can provide entire security to smartphone but it is very costly as it requires kernel configuration.

System add-on promotes functionality and security and requires user updates, but updates are completely accepted by recent smartphones.

Add-on is a simplest method to make smartphone security better but the users have to install relevant applications but it cannot guarantee security development.

Applicable security mechanisms for smartphone is shown in Table 4. T1-T8 are the threats shown in Table 2 and Table3.{{12 Jeon, Woongryul 2011}}

Table 4. Applicable Security mechanisms




Related Threats



Add-on Application,

System Add-on

Anti-virus solutions scan files, memory, SMS, MMS, emails and URLs

Anti-virus solutions can prevent malwares and also prevent access to phishing site

T1, T6,



System Modification

Firewall blocks and/or audit unallowed

connections from /to


Firewall can prevent network attacks

by denying access to

untrusted wireless


T3, (T8)

Secure API

System Add-on

Secure API provide cryptographic

functionalities for

application developer

Application developer can implement secure functionality using secure APIs

T1, T2,


Access Control

System Modification

Access control limits access of processes and user to resources and/or


Access control can limit risk from



T1, T7


System Modification

User should be authenticated to use


Authentication process can prevent

unauthorized use of



Spam Filter

System Add-on,

Application Add-on

SPAM filtering applications blocks

MMS, SMS, emails

and calls from

unwanted origin

SPAM filtering

applications can

prevent SPAM



System Modification

Pre-Testing guarantee applications and authorizes developer

Pre-Testing can prevent malware and ensure security of applications

T1, T4, T5

Regular Update

System Modification

Regular update for platform and




Remote Access


System Modification

Remote access control includes


configuration and

management of


blocking, remote


When user lose his/her smartphone,

remote access

control can reduce

damage by lost



6 States of Smartphone Security

6.1 Past

For the past ten years, there have been a noticeable change in the computing world. Earlier in 2001, a computer was widely used by companies and for personal use and it was slowly changed to laptops which is expensive device. Later on smartphones came into picture which users can access their e-mails ,directions, share videos, music, photos etc where ever they want.

In olden days, computers are static devices so user have to do anything infront of the systems ideally but when it comes to smartphones, they are easily portable so it's very accessible to do things anywhere. At the same time when browsing internet, downloading or transferring files there are chances of virus attacks on the smartphone. Hence, the smartphone have to be protect from risks by installing antivirus software, installing applications from the respective operating systems, antispyware, firewall, encryption, mobile malware.

Figure1 shows the percentage of smatphones containing security which describes very less users are taking care of their phone. In the next users security levels may increase as the technology keeps changing and security is the key factor.

Figure 1. Percentages of Mobile Devices with Security Software in 2010

6.2 Current

The rapid increase in the sales of smartphones shows how the customers are showing interest towards latest technology phones. On the other hand, protection have to be considered to keep the smartphone virus free. If a user's phone is attacked by virus that will spread to others phones as well. So everyone have to install antivirus software. The vulnerabilities, threats for smartphone and the protection measures are discussed in the previous sections. So always make sure to update the applications. There are some ways to protect the smartphone from attacks but those are not sufficient to keep the phone virus free. So in future, researches have to done to improve the security levels.

6.3 Predictions of Smartphone Security

IT companies are doing more research on mobile security as the usage of smartphones is rapidly increasing which needs to keep the phone out of risks. In future, in addition to the current security measures, something like protection for SMS such as anti-spam over SMS for mobiles, not allowing to install vulnerable applications or other than inbuilt applications. {{19 Katsaros,I. 2004}}

7 Conclusions

A smartphone is a multipurpose, portable devices having large volume of information stored by using some inbuilt applications. The factors that causes risk for smartphone security are inadequate knowledge on security and user's negligence. Unlike the older version mobile phones, latest smartphones are becoming more familiar because of its features and at the same time user have to take into account of its privacy and security.

Most of the protection methods applicable to personal computers can also execute to smartphone security. Some proposed measures to protect the smartphone from risks are install applications from secured sources, install anti-virus/antispyware software, if available setup password to access the phone, when browsing websites concentrate on the security acceptance, update the operating system and applications frequently. If Bluetooth is set up then make sure device is in invisible state and enable password protection. Make a habit of keeping backup and encrypt import informations like bank details, passwords etc. Be careful when opening unwanted SMS or e-mails containing attachments or links or numbers. Avoid unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

In the current state, researching on smartphone protection is becoming popular as most of the customers are using smartphones rather than basic feature phones. As there are plenty of researches going on smartphone protection, even though there is insufficient work to analyze all security threats of smartphone. In order to fix the problems for smartphone security, security threats relaying on smartphone is needed. Hence , in this paper, security of smartphone is studied and explained about the appropriate security measures in contrast to threats.