What Your Smartphone Won't Tell You

04/29/2013 01:01 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2013

With more than 165 million active smartphones in the U.S., it's fairly safe to assume that calendars, call logs, contacts, emails, financial data, text messages, photos and videos stored on smartphones or mobile devices are at risk of being monitored or stolen. In most cases, without a user even knowing it.

Your smartphone is a weapon, and it's not that security smart after all.

Criminals and terrorists have the ability to intercept mobile phone calls and steal sensitive data via malware (malicious software) or public Wi-Fi networks. The worst place in the world to check financial information is at an airport or coffee shop. Yet so many people do so. Bottom line: financial information should never be accessed on an open network or a mobile device.

Malware embedded in apps is the most common channel for transmitting Trojans or viruses. Cybercriminals also use apps to turn on a smartphone's or a tablet's microphone and they can also take pictures or video.

Even an innocent action like sharing a photo can make you a target. Geotags on photos using the smartphone's internal GPS embeds your exact location in photo files. If your photos are shared on Facebook, Instagram or Tumbler, cyber criminals and stalkers can track you.

But it's not just your smartphone to worry about. With more 20 billion tablets in use and more and more companies implementing a "BYOD" Bring Your Own Device policy to the workplace, it's the Wild-Wild West as far as criminals are concerned. Tablets are just as porous as smartphones because they also lack firewall protection, placing privileged communications in finance, business and national security at risk of being stolen or hacked.

The key to staying ahead of criminals and cyber stalkers is an aggressive mobile security strategy. Smartphone and mobile device encryption only goes so far. Passwords can be hacked. Phone conversations can be monitored. The only real way to secure a mobile device is through a hardened operating system. There are a few companies developing this technology. Some have already rolled out products that thwart spying and data theft. In some cases, the technology even lets you know exactly who is trying to penetrate your mobile device.

And while most Americans dismiss mobile spying and hacking, the fact is, your stolen financial data could be arming foreign nationals, miscreants and hactivists.