Cell Phone Pictures are Risky Business

I’ve spoken (but not yet written) on this and think it’s worthy of posting to read:

Check Your Settings: Cell Phone Pictures Are Risky Business – Yahoo! News


Cell Phone Contract With Your Kids

I am not one to address cell phone etiquette. As an adult and parent these are areas of your responsibility where I am not an expert. What I can offer advice on are security concerns as a parent and as a security professional and that is what I’ve done in the companion article to this one.

I have read quite a few articles online and I am using information from many of those articles also. I am providing links to those articles at the end of this article so you can review each of their perspectives and offerings on the information as well as giving them credit for their contribution to the general online discussion and presentation of this material.

While I’m one for trying to be thorough, I would think twenty-one terms with as much wording as I’ve included below would be a bit much for most kids.  It isn’t that they can’t live by the principals, but as an adult, look at it like the contract you signed to purchase your house.  It’s difficult for most to understand every single item because of volume alone.  So my suggestion would be to distill the information down to what you think is necessary for your child and try to get it to about seven rules that you can state in a sentence each.  Again, you are the parent and should best be able to determine which rules work (or are needed) for your child and how you can best present them.

    1. You can only provide your phone number to those whom Mom and Dad have given explicit permission to.
    2. Do not answer any calls or reply to any texts unless you know who it is (approved by Mom and Dad from above).
    3. Keep cell phone on when out with friends so Mom or Dad can reach you if needed and always answer when we call.
    4. You can only call or text those who are on your contact list. Any additions to your contact list must be approved by Mom or Dad.
    5. No downloads (apps, ring tones, etc) or using the internet without permission ahead of time — this costs extra.  Perhaps a prescribed number of apps or ring tones as incentives?
    6. Phone MUST be turned off by 9pm each evening and left in the kitchen for charging. It stays off till the next morning after you’re ready for school and/or chores are done.
    7. The phone may be used after homework and chores are completed.
    8. No cell phone till your homework is done after school and during family times (dinner, family night, etc).
    9. The phone is to be turned off when visiting with relatives or friends, or at other inappropriate times (movies, museums, etc.)
    10. When at home, use the regular phone instead of cell phone to make calls.
    11. When asked to turn off phone, it must be done immediately. If a second request is needed, phone will be taken away for a day.
    12. Sending pictures to anyone requires permission by Mom or Dad at first. Once judgement is demonstrated additional privileges can be granted.  If you send or receive any pictures that may be inappropriate or even questionable, please inform Mom and Dad immediately.
    13. If gossip, bad language, or immodest pictures are taken, phone may be taken away for a specific time period or permanently.
    14. Phone must be on “silent mode” during school hours and left in your backpack (unless you are leaving the school for a field trip or something similar — then keep it with you). The phone cannot be used at school during school hours unless you have your teacher’s approval first. Know your school’s rules for cell phones and follow them.
    15. If grades go down, and are not corrected quickly, cell phone privileges will be lost until grades are back up.
    16. Mom & Dad have the right to inspect your phone at any time.
    17. There is a 2 hour (or some prescribed) limit for your cell phone use for the month. If you go over that time you must pay for the overage.
    18. Mom and Dad may ask you to be responsible for a portion of the monthly bill or to pay for the additional services (text, Internet, etc) if you wish to have them. You may have privileges suspended at any time you are behind in payment terms.  (This is probably only appropriate for older children and helps teach financial responsibility along with the use.)
    19. Determine if you will allow texting. Kids can rapidly run up a large phone bill with texting.
    20. Web surfing is disabled.  If not disabled (e.g. an iPhone where it’s necessary) then surfing is restricted and monitored.
    21. If any rules are broken, Mom or Dad may put your phone on “time-out” for as long as we feel it is necessary.

This is a one-month trial period, if all rules are followed for thirty days, Mom and Dad will increase hours on weekends.

This contract will be reevaluated every six months to possibly receive more texts, web surfing or extra money for ring tones etc.

We agree to the above by signing our signatures here: _______ ________

Thanks to many online resources for the aggregate of this information.  Please see many specifically referenced here for more info:

Does my cell phone have a virus?

Many users aren’t worried about viruses or malware on their cell phones.  However, most companies are.

To date, there isn’t any exploit based malware for the major smartphone OSs (Andriod, Symbian, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Blackberry and… oh yeah.. Palm).  What this means is that, unlike the Windows operating system, there isn’t piece of malware that has been written that takes advantage of a weakness in the code or device which would allow for an exploit to occur (at least not yet).

This means that all attacks on your cell phone require an action by the end user for them to work.  I think alot of people are still hung up on this point, so I’m going to restate it.  I can take advantage of a web server exploit and place malware in an iframe.  When, from your PC, you simply browse to that site, you can become infected assuming you don’t have an AV scanner or content filtering service that would protect you from the redirect and download.  In browsing the website, you have “done” something.

GREAT! Make sure everyone knows not to do anything to allow themselves to be compromised (or pwned)!

Rickrolled iPhone

Rickrolled iPhone

If only it were that easy, right?

What we have is a combination of a social engineering problem and end user education/awareness.

In many aspects, all malware delivered via email, web, sms, etc. has some context of social engineering to it.  One would either used a compromised account from a friends device and delivered messages to the contact lists, therefore making it seem like a trusted source or falsify the origination of the email to make it appear that it’s coming from a large trusted source (e.g. Microsoft.com).  Either way, they are trying to not raise any red flags and get you to open the email, the attachment, or follow the url.

We try to mitigate this with device control policies and the above mentioned user education/awareness.  By providing our users with examples and scenarios we try to make sure they are as informed as possible so they don’t fall prey to these attacks.

I have written a list of best practices for cell phone use to help protect you and your information.  If you are interested in those recommendations, please check out my post on Cell Phone Security Best Practices – keeping your personal information personal.



But wait, there’s another big hole here!  These are smartphones.  It’s not about email, text, and phone anymore.  These things can have applications installed on them!


And so we have the app stores.  Each major manufacture has them for their respective OS (see list above).  What we have now is a channel by which a malicious person could deliver their application (aka malware) to your device.  What makes this more interesting is that you are willingly downloading and installing this application (aka malware).

These are supposed to be trusted channels.  Each manufacture has a process by which they test and verify some aspects of the application before they sign the app and publish it to their respective store.  This may range from, does the app start?  Does it crash my phone OS?  Or is it secure?  We can’t really assume they are checking for the security of it’s actions.

And why is that you ask?

Let me give you an example of a published application, that you would very likely not want.  Let’s just call this app “Flex(insert a vowel here)spy” and the vowel rhymes with the word try.  This company writes this application.  Submits it to an app store and says “This is a personal backup app.  It backs up your files, emails, contacts, etc to a website for you”.  Sounds good.  App store tests it and approves for sale.  It was posted in the app store and sold for a period of time.  Until our good friends at F-Secure notified them “um, you guys are selling an app that allows someone to spy on another users phone use”.  What????

What may have been presented to the app store as one thing, was in practice quite something else.  The app could be deployed directly to the phone or just put onto a memory card and slipped inside a phone to be activated.  So if you wanted to track someones usage and get their info, all you needed was 30 seconds of access to their phone.  What’s even more interesting is this is what the company’s website indicated you could do with the product.  If only the app testers had read it…

While not perfect, the app stores do provide a level of protection that should help keep users from putting malicious applications on their phones.  That is, until the users decide they need to “assert their freedoms” and jailbreak their devices so they can do things like install application not reviewed by the manufacturer.  Are you jailbreakers still sure your in the right here?

Even the new and highly touted Droid has seen issues with developers posting “apps” to help you connect to your online banking site.  Seriously though, when I want to connect to Citibank, do I need an app from 09driod that costs $.99 to do so?

Mobile Device Management

Mobile Device Management

Where does that leave us?

  1. Have policies for your device
  2. Use management applications for the device to enforce those policy settings
  3. Educate your users

This should look remarkably like any policy for managing a PC.  Well it is.  Lets take the approach that, as smartphones continue to mature and gain functionality, they will be under attack as much (if not more) than our PCs.  Since we have the perspective of having dealt with PC security issues, let’s try and stay in front of the smartphone security issues.