It’s not only about your mobile security anymore, it’s about your “mobile” health as well. The newest trend in health services and mobile developments is what experts call “mHealth,” short for “mobile health.” What’s that all about? Well, have you ever used a mobile app that monitors your weight? Or how many steps you take in a day? Or maybe you’ve used a mobile app for medical reference… These types of apps are part of this new mobile health trend. But there’s more to the term than meets the eye…
A quick glance at mHealth – advantages and risks
While mHealth includes remote patient monitoring and electronic health records, it mainly refers to text messaging between patients and their health care providers, test results delivered via e-mail and medical apps. For the latter category, the most popular types of apps are those related to fitness and wellness. Aside from saving time (and money in some cases), they can help their users stay fit, track pregnancies, monitor moods, eat healthier, manage prescriptions and get medical reminders. We are also seeing a quick increase in the usage of health apps that incorporate a gaming element – reward, competition with other users of the same app etc. There are even apps that monitor blood pressure and sugar levels, and others that help with chronic disease management.
According to research data from Juniper Networks, the number of medical app downloads will be around 44 million in 2012, and by 2016 it will reach 142 million globally.
All in all, these apps enable you to take charge of your health in a way that’s convenient and more enjoyable, and strengthen the partnership with your health care providers. The advantages are clear, and mHealth is increasingly becoming mainstream. But, as with many other online phenomena, crooks and scammers can easily find a way to benefit from their popularity.
And here’s where the mHealth risks lie – crooks can devise scams to get hold of medical records or other health-related data that they can sell on the black market or use for marketing purposes. In some cases, they may abuse such services only to breach your mobile security and plant mobile malware on your mobile device to perform all sorts of actions behind your back. This kind of malware includes Trojans and mobile spyware that can record conversations and data stored on your device, and intercept text messages.
How to counter mHealth risks and protect your mobile security and privacy
- If you receive e-mails from your health care provider or any other institution you went to for medical tests, make sure they’re accurate. Look for anything suspicious. If they urge you to click on a link, don’t do it, especially if you’re reading the e-mail from your phone. Try to open it in a new larger browser window on your PC. Also, be careful with attachments, as those sent by scammers usually come with malware. We recommend having mobile security software installed on your device, like BullGuard Mobile Security – its mobile antivirus scans files, detects and removes threats effectively.
- If you want to look up a medical issue on your phone’s browser, chances are you may end up on a malicious site hosting malware and phishing. With proper mobile security you don’t have to worry about getting infected with mobile malware or tricked into handing over sensitive details about your health.
- Be careful with text messages. Make sure the ones you receive – if you do – are truly from your health care provider. If you are asked to hand over sensitive information about yourself – don’t! Such details are never requested over messages or e-mail.
- Don’t download just any app, from any place. Only download from trusted and secure websites. Third-party, little known websites can host malicious apps that could gravely affect the health of your device. Again, make sure you have effective mobile security installed, in case you run into one of those.
- Carefully read the permissions requested by the app. Some apps can be real privacy violators, tracking your every move. Which is why, if you care at all about your mobile privacy, be careful what apps you accept, depending on the permissions they request.
- Also, consult your health care on what apps are safe and medically sound, and don’t replace their professional advice with such apps. If you run into a medical app advertised to help with your condition and achieve wondrous results, remember: there’s no “magic” app to match that description.
Apply common sense when using mHealth services. Also, get BullGuard Mobile Security to keep your medical data safe and your phone in good health!