Are traditional computers — desktop machines and laptops — more secure than mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets? Even experts do not always agree about this question, because both computers and mobile devices pose security threats. But as long as you take common-sense precautions, you can build solid desktop and mobile security.

The Risks of Mobility

Some of the security risks associated with mobile devices are because of the very thing that makes them so convenient — their mobility. Unlike computers, they contain GPS devices that track our every move.

And in turn, many popular apps report our locations on the Internet. Flaws in these apps, or malware that we have accidentally downloaded, could report our whereabouts to unknown parties. Moreover, because we carry our mobile devices around with us constantly, they are at much greater risk of being lost or stolen.

Other challenges to mobile security are related to the operating systems that "run" mobile devices and allow them to work. Most smartphones and tablets on the market today run one of two operating systems. Apple devices — iPhones and iPads — use Apple's iOS, while a wide range of devices uses Google's Android operating system.

Both Apple and Google have made conscientious efforts to make their technology secure. Apple, however, keeps much tighter control over iOS devices. For example, iPhone and iPad apps are available only from the Apple App Store.

As a matter of philosophy, Google has made Android a much more "open" technology, and Android apps can be downloaded from many different online sources. Not all of these sources are trustworthy! This means that Android users should be careful about where they download apps for their devices. It is best to stick to the Google Play store or other well-known sources.

Computer Security Threats Persist

Meanwhile, conventional computers — desktop and laptop — continue to present their own distinctive security threats. Most computers do not broadcast their locations onto the Internet, and they are less likely to be misplaced and lost. But these machines run more complex software than most mobile apps — and with complexity goes the potential for design flaws that cybercriminals can exploit.

Also, in spite of the skyrocketing popularity of mobile devices, most business and professional work is still done on desktop or laptop computers. Popular business productivity applications such as the Microsoft Office suite are in extremely wide use, making them popular targets for hackers. And many users are still using older, less secure versions of these programs.

Layers of Protection

Sensible personal precautions are the first layer of protection against mobile threats as well as computer-based threats. Apart from being careful about downloading Android apps from unfamiliar sources, users of both Android and Apple devices should follow many of the same precautions advised for computer-users. For example, choose strong passwords. ("Password" and "Princess" are not strong passwords.)

However, all computers and mobile devices are vulnerable to cyberthreats. Cybercriminals put great effort into looking for subtle flaws in popular technologies. Therefore, mobile users should also invest in security toolkits that will guard against the ever-growing range of threats. The threats to mobile devices and computers differ in details. But both are vulnerable to threats that can cripple your online activities, at a minimum, and possibly steal your most confidential personal information, including bank authentication information.

Both computers and mobile devices require security-protection tools. Free mobile security software is a useful place to start for mobile users, but free software is limited. Investing in robust computer security or mobile security is the best way to make sure that your mobile experience will not lead to a nasty surprise.

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