Smartphone security: The first link in the healthcare value chain

Smartphones and tablets are used for just about everything these days, from social media and education to banking and healthcare. Applications abound. But have you ever stopped to consider that using one could open the door to your private information?

When you download an application, you agree to its terms and conditions, which commonly grant the manufacturer the right to use its software on your mobile device to manage updates and "other services." Quite often, those other services give the manufacturer the ability to identify your personal information (name, phone, address, social security number, passwords, profiles, etc.), your physical location, the websites you visit and what you buy.

Some of the top iPhone applications today are Draw Something,BejeweledTrack 8CloudOn and Tweetbot for Twitter. These represent hundreds of thousands of downloads. The trend toward using your device in every way possible increases every day and is only limited by someone's creativity. With so many ways to live your life and use your smartphone have you given any thought to your privacy? 

For healthcare alone there are thousands of mobile apps on the market. They enable consumers to manage their diet, mood, pregnancies and mental health. New services are being created to track prescriptions, blood pressure and sugar levels. What if this personal information was accessed by third parties?

According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, "off-the-shelf smartphones in today's market typically meet 40 percent of security requirements" and "standard mobile devices do not comply with healthcare security requirements."

CarrierIQ has software on 141 million phones today that track your location and data and what you do with your phone. Apple, Google, Facebook, Bing and other widely used search engines track you as well. With all this data mining going on, without your knowledge, how are you going to protect your personal information? 

Additionally, consumers themselves sometimes unknowingly contribute to breaches in their privacy. Consider these statistics:

People are 15 times more likely to lose a mobile phone than a laptop, making loss the biggest threat to mobile users.

40 percent of consumers say losing their mobile devices would be worse than losing their wallets, yet they often leave them unsupervised or unprotected.

More than 50 percent of smartphone users do not use any password protection to prevent unauthorized access to their device.

On average, consumers store "digital assets" valued at $37,438 in their devices, including digital media, professional information and personal correspondence and photos  -  yet more than a third lack protection.

By 2014, mobile Internet use is expected to overtake desktop Internet use, which could make mobile devices even more attractive to cybercriminals.

Mobile malware aimed at the Android platform alone grew 400 percent in the six months between June 2010 and January 2011, and no platform is immune.

By 2015 there are expected to be 500 million mobile banking users worldwide, making mobile banking safety a top concern

Your personal information is your responsibility  -  who sees it, who uses it and where it goes. As you use your smartphone or device to manage your healthcare, what should you do to protect your vital and very personal healthcare data? 

Here are 10 suggestions to increase the security on your phone.

1. Lock your device with a password or personal identification number. 

2. Keep your software system updated. 

3. Don't hack your device; changing the functions on your device may open up holes in your security.

4. Back up your data.

5. Install applications from trusted sources.

6. Always log out of banking and shopping sites. 

7. Turn off Wi-Fi location services and Bluetooth when they are not in use, as these can be hacked to access your contacts, texts and emails. 

8. Don't text or email personal information or store it on your phone.

9. Don't click on links or attachments in unsolicited emails or text messages. 

10. Install a security application (anti-virus, malware) on your device.

We are responsible for our personal information. How are you protecting yourself? 

Geoffrey Hancock is director of business/sales and technical implementation for cloud, security, mobility and healthcare at Verizon.