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Shield Your Smartphone from Cyber Threats

woman holding a smartphone
October 11 2019 • by Deirdre Jannerelli • Security

If you have a smartphone – and chances are you do – one of the smartest things you can do is make sure it’s safe and secure. After all, a smartphone is really just a miniature computer, so you should be just as vigilant with its security as you would your desktop or laptop computer.

Here are 8 security tips to help keep your phone, and the information on it, out of harm’s way:
  1. Lock it. It doesn’t matter if your phone is brand new or a couple of years old, making sure your phone is protected with a passcode, fingerprint, or facial recognition, is extremely important. Yes, it can be a pain to have to unlock your phone every time you want to use it, but if you don’t lock your phone and it’s lost or stolen, the information on it could easily fall into the wrong hands. A good rule of thumb is to set your phone to automatically lock within a minute if you’re not using it. The longer you leave your phone unlocked, the greater the opportunity someone has to gain access to it. And, a side benefit to having your phone auto-lock quickly is that your screen will shut off faster, helping to conserve battery life.

  2. Keep your software up-to-date. There’s a reason why there are frequent updates available for your iPhone or Android. Those updates help to keep your phone safe. When a system update is available for your phone, it could include important things like security patches. Likewise, keeping your apps and mobile internet browsers up-to-date is your best line of defense in making sure those internet connections aren’t vulnerable.

  3. Consider installing antivirus software on your phone. Although many security experts say there’s less chance of a mobile phone catching a virus than a regular computer, it can't be ruled out completely, especially if users download less than trustworthy apps. But the good news is that antivirus software can help ward off malicious attacks. There are antivirus recommendations out there for both iPhone and Android devices.

  4. Stick with secure Wifi. There’s no doubt public Wifi can be tempting to tap into, especially when you’re at an airport, coffee shop or hotel. But the big problem with public Wifi networks is that they’re not secure. Using an unsecure network to access the internet could put the information you share or access online at risk. If you really need to use a public Wifi network, experts recommend connecting to it via a virtual private network, or VPN. Using a VPN encrypts public internet connections, protecting your privacy and securing your information. And if you must use public Wifi without a VPN, remember to never access sites where you have to type in or access sensitive information like usernames, passwords, banking credentials, or credit card information.

  5. Watch out for apps. If you need to download an app to your phone, your best bet is to download it from an official source, like the Apple App Store for iPhones or the Google Play Store for Android phones. And even if you do download an app from one of the official stores, it’s still a good idea to take an extra step and look at the reviews that accompany the app. Cyber crooks are very conniving and it’s not uncommon for them to create fake apps that look legitimate. Remember that an app with thousands of positive reviews is a safer bet than one that only has a handful of reviews.

  6. Keep sensitive information off your phone. If you can avoid it, don’t store any information related to your work, finances, or access credentials on your phone. The less sensitive information you have stored on your phone, the less chance you have of having that information compromised if your phone is stolen or lost. And if you use a mobile wallet on your phone, be sure to cancel any credit cards or debit cards that are stored there if your phone goes missing. Likewise, if you use any mobile payment or banking apps on your phone, you should immediately change your login credentials if your phone is lost or stolen.

  7. Steer clear of public charging stations. You know those charging stations you can hook your phone up to in airports and malls? Don’t. It’s a good idea to avoid public charging stations, as they could be susceptible to a scam called “juice jacking”, where crooks can gain access to, or infect, your mobile device. It’s much safer to plug your device directly into a wall outlet with your own cord when you need to charge it.

  8. Don’t click on suspicious links or attachments. If you receive an email, text, or social media message containing links or attachments you weren’t expecting, think twice before opening them. Even if the sender is someone you recognize, it’s best to steer clear of any links that just don’t seem right. There are many viruses that can find their way into email, text messages, and social media platforms, making it look like a friend or loved one sent it.
The power and convenience that smartphones provide is undeniable, but it’s important to keep your guard up when using them. By going the extra mile to ensure your mobile device is secure, you can help protect your identity and financial information from cyber crooks.