We love the convenience of our smartphones today, as they let us get much done so quickly. In many ways, smartphones are replacing computers for many tasks, but are you aware of the risks that come with using your smartphone? Do you know how to stay safe when using it?
Cell phone safety is, or at least should be, a top priority for people all over the world. Our smartphones carry so much personal information that it’s important to make sure that your privacy is always protected when using your phone.
Ensuring that your smartphone stays secure and private is not as difficult as it sounds, it just takes some awareness and effort. This October, for National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we offer you 8 tips on how you can stay safe on your smartphone:
Protect Your Info with Passwords and PINs
Use a PIN or a password to protect your smartphone and make sure that they are strong and secure. There are hackers today that are experts at cracking passwords, so if your password is easy to crack, your smartphone is at risk. The Payza blog has tips on how you can create a strong and distinct password.
Your SIM card should also have a PIN. If your phone is stolen, the thief can take out your SIM card and use it in another phone to access your personal information. Stay even more secure by enabling this PIN code in your phone’s settings.
Also, enable an automatic lock screen so no one else can access your phone without unlocking it first, because when leaving your smartphone unattended someone can access it to extract much vulnerable information in just a couple of minutes.
Be Careful with Links and Downloads
Cyberattacks come in many different forms and most commonly your phone is at its greatest risk when downloading or opening files or links that contain malicious programs. That’s why it’s important that you do not click on links in text messages and emails unless you know that they are legitimate and trust the source. Pay attention though – hackers and identity thieves today send malware through phishing emails and text messages that are tailored specifically for you, by using information they find on social media. So always think twice before clicking on a link or downloading an attachment to your phone.
Be careful when downloading new apps as well and only get them from legitimate sources such as Google Play or iTunes. Some sites may be operated by cyber criminals and offer free or pirated apps that contain malware. If you’re unsure about an app or a website, read the reviews first, as this can help you avoid anything suspicious or threatening.
Keep Your Security and Operating System Up to Date
Always make sure to download the latest update for your operating system, as these updates often contain changes that make your smartphone even more secure. Some phones install these updates automatically, but you can also check your phone’s settings to verify if you need to install any new updates.
You may already be protecting your computer with a security program, but did you know that you can protect your smartphone the same way? There are many good security software programs available for your phone that can provide protection from viruses, malware, unauthorized access to apps, and ransomware. Some of these apps can even help detect phishing emails! Therefore, be sure to install anti-virus software for your phone.
According to Techradar, these are the 5 best security and anti-virus for Android: AVL, Avast Mobile Security, Bitdefender Antivirus Free, McAfee Security & Power Booster Free, and Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus.
There are also programs you can install that let you lock your smartphone remotely and use GPS signals to locate it in case you lose it, and even wipe the phone of its data if necessary. This way, you can stay secure even if your phone is lost or stolen. For iOS, there’s the iPhone Activation Lock that does this automatically when you have the “Find my iPhone” activated, and for Android there’s an Android Device Manager called “Find My Device”.
Be Careful when Using Public Wi-Fi Network
When connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, read the full Terms and Conditions before accepting them – make sure you know what information you’re giving up for the web access you’re getting. David Nield, freelance tech and science writer, suggests that if you have an alternative email address, you should use that. When possible, be sure to use the advertised, official Wi-Fi networks provided by the hotel, airport, restaurant or bar you’re visiting. Do not use an open Wi-Fi network if you don’t know who the provider is.
When using a public Wi-Fi network, you can not be sure if you’re using the one you think you are using, or the Wi-Fi of an identity thief sitting nearby. It is thus recommended to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network), which in the words of Steve Weisman, expert in preventing cyber scams and identity theft, “enables you to send encrypted communications through a separate and secure private network while you are on a public network.” To stay even more secure when using a public Wi-Fi network, you should not access sites that contain financial or private data, such as banking or shopping apps, or even your email. You can still use a public Wi-Fi network, just be careful when doing it.
Back Up Your Data
Today ransomware presents a big threat for your smartphone. These programs block access to your data and make it difficult to recover. It’s important to regularly back up the data on your phone to your computer, the cloud or an external hard drive. On many smartphones, you can set your data to be backed up automatically in the cloud. If your phone doesn’t have this option, there are apps that can do it for you.
Do Not Stay Logged In or Use Auto-fill
It is convenient to stay logged in to certain apps, but that also makes it easier for an attacker to access these apps and the personal information stored within it. Techradar recommends you to log out of apps when not using them to keep your smartphone even more secure. Do this especially for banking and shopping apps that contain bank account details, or for email accounts that contain personal information.
Do not save your personal information, such as passwords and credit card information, on websites that you visit on your smartphone either. Storing this type of information on your phone makes you more vulnerable to hackers.
Turn Off Functions You’re Not Currently Using
There are settings you should turn off when you’re not using them, such as Bluetooth, location services, Wi-Fi or mobile data. According to Steve Weisman, nearby hackers can use these functions to connect to your smartphone.
In addition, to keep your money and identity protected, be sure to close any apps that are running in the background before using your smartphone for banking. According to Symantec Canada, viruses and dangerous software attached to other apps can otherwise run in the background and monitor your banking activities.
You should always be cautious about how you use your smartphone. By following these precautions, you can ensure the security of your smartphone and protect your personal information.