4G: Ten Times the Speed with Twice the Risk?

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Time and chance overtakes us all, especially when it comes to technology. But the latest and greatest iterations aren’t always a steady stream of improvements on both ends, and can sometimes create new issues in the place of old ones.

This situation rings true when it comes to mobile phones. Ten years ago, consumers could safely place a call—albeit a slower one with less reception coverage—without worrying about putting their identity at risk. Today, consumers are likely checking Facebook, watching a video and surfing the web, in addition to making calls on improved networks. However, broadcasting information over a network using the same communication standards as the Internet may come at a price. That’s right, 4G uses the World Wide Web to transmit data, giving hackers more opportunities to intercept sensitive information.

4G is an important evolution providing amazing bandwidth enabling mobile users to stream music, videos and movies at a much faster rate than ever before. 4G is a generic industry term describing the fourth generation of mobile technology that gets your phone to talk to cell towers and, eventually, another device. Some companies also refer to 4G as LTE, or Long Term Evolution. 4G networks are able to provide better service over their 3G counterparts by using an Internet-based connection—the same as your home computer—that allows consumers to text, call, and video message faster from a mobile device.

However, along with the multitude of usability benefits offered by 4G enabled connections, this communication standard may not actually be as secure as past versions. The standard in question, Internet Protocol (IP), sends information through a network’s IP address, which is the equivalent of a postal address for websites on the backend. Hackers can easily exploit this communication standard, with the most immediate attack used over 4G networks being a “Man-in-the Middle” (MITM) attack —where a hacker impersonates, to your device or to you, a particular user or service in order to collect sensitive data before sending it on to its final destination.

A MITM attack can also trick users into installing malware—malicious software capable of tracking data, controlling devices and intercepting text messages—on a phone. In fact, this very scenario played out at a major security conference in 2011, where some attendees downloaded a supposed software update for their phones that turned out to be a malware package. The malware in question gave the hacker near universal access to victims’ texts messages, usernames and passwords.

So how can you protect your information over a 4G connection? While this is mostly a technical problem that network providers are working to solve on their end, there are a few strategies to help protect you and your device in the meantime.

  • Be wary of unsolicited updates. The 2011 security conference attendees learned the hard way that hackers can disguise malware as seemingly safe software updates. Don’t make the same mistake: never download an update to your device that doesn’t come from a major app store like Google Play or the Apple App Store.
  • Watch your text messages for suspicious links. Another way hackers use to trick device owners into clicking on a malicious link is text messages. Such links can send users to websites designed to exploit mobile devices. If an unsolicited text message is sent to you with a suspicious link, always ignore it—or better yet, delete it.
  • Install McAfee® Mobile Security. McAfee Mobile Security is our free app for both Android and iOS devices. The Android app includes malware protection, a messaging filter that blocks malicious texts, web-protection, that warns you if you visit a malicious site, any many more features to protect your privacy.

McAfee Mobile Security is simple to use and promises maximum protection for all of your personal data. For more information about this product visit us online. For the latest updates on consumer threats and mobile security, follow us on Twitter at @McAfeeConsumer and on Facebook and tell us what you think!


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