You may call it a “phone,” but that smart device in your pocket is actually a tiny computer. And that means it’s subject to the same security threats as your desktop or laptop. Any device that connects to the Internet is open to hackers, viruses and data breaches.
When your smartphone is hacked, your finances, private information and photographs, and even your personal safety can be at risk. For instance, some attackers may download financial information from your phone’s history, such as your use of Internet banking or mobile pay apps, and others may tap into your phone’s GPS to keep track of where you are.
Make sure your phone is secure by following these steps.
1. Use passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs).
If your phone is lost or stolen, you want to make sure that no unauthorized person can access its information. Use a PIN to activate your phone, and set different passwords for all of your important applications, such as email, banking and mobile wallet. Entering passwords all the time may seem laborious, but it will be worth the effort if your phone gets into the wrong hands.
2. Back up your data.
The documents, photographs and contacts stored on your phone are likely important to you—and if your phone becomes compromised or lost, you could lose them. Just as you would back up the data on your computer, you should perform backups to the data on your phone. You could back up your phone to a computer or external hard drive, or back up your data in the cloud.
3. Install only trusted apps.
When you download apps from a mobile app store, you are allowing the app provider access to your device. And although most are trustworthy, some apps carry viruses or malware that could attack your phone. Before you download an app, read reviews about it, make sure you’re using a legitimate app store for your phone, and make sure the app’s logo in the app store matches that on the app developer’s website.
4. Be careful with public wi-fi.
If you’re signed into a public wi-fi network, like the one at the airport or even your corner coffee shop, don’t conduct business as if you’re in private. That means refrain from checking your online banking or connecting to a confidential server at your workplace. On a public network, your phone can be an easy target for cyber crime.
5. Run the updates.
Nobody enjoys getting used to a new way of operating their devices, but those nagging updates are not just about a new look or new features. They are actually important for keeping your phone secure because each new update addresses security loopholes that the old system left open. So when your system prompts you to update, take the time to do it. Or better yet, set your phone to accept updates automatically, and you’ll always be running the latest and most secure version of your phone’s operating system.
6. Consider installing security software.
As cyber security threats increase, it may become necessary to install security software or security apps on your mobile device, just as you would install antivirus software on your desktop or laptop computer. Especially if you use a mobile payment system such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet, you should consider mobile device-specific security software to deter cyber criminals and keep your phone and your data safe.
7. Wipe your data before discarding your phone.
Time for a new phone? Make sure you clear all the information off your old one before you donate, sell or otherwise get rid of it. The steps to follow for wiping all data off your phone will depend on what type of phone and model you have, but easy-to-follow directions can be found in your user guide or online. Completely erase your data off the phone and make sure it is reset to its original factory settings.
Smartphones have provided great flexibility and convenience, allowing users to perform all kinds of tasks from any location. But that flexibility and convenience also means that cyber criminals can tap into your phone and steal your information from any location as well. If you take the time to ensure that you’re using your smartphone securely, your peace of mind will be worth the extra effort.