Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets can be invaluable both in business and in your personal life. Along with the convenience, however, comes additional security risks. This week we’re going to look at eight tips for keeping your mobile devices secure and private.
Keep your phone locked
While this may seem obvious, often times the simplest security measures are the most important. Passwords, PINs, and biometric locks are simple, effective means to keep your data private. Cyber security is valuable, but it can’t stop your device from being stolen. Simply keeping your phone locked will prevent common thieves from accessing any of your identity or payment information. To be extra certain, set your phone to automatically lock after a short amount of time. If your device has features such as “Find My iPhone” that enable you to track its location, leave these on so the device can be tracked down if it’s stolen.
Set secure passwords
Another simple security precaution is keeping your passwords strong and unique. Apps, websites, and the device itself can contain information you don’t want thieves and hackers accessing. Weak passwords – or even worse, not having a password at all – is like leaving the front door open for thieves. A strong password makes your data harder to access, and keeping them varied will prevent them from accessing all your accounts if they gain access to one.
If the account offers it, enable two-factor authentication for an extra layer of protection. Two-factor authentication requires you to go through additional steps whenever your account is accessed through a new device. This usually involves entering a code or clicking a link that is sent via text or email.
Keep your OS up-to-date
In addition to quality of life features, OS (operating system) updates often contain important new security features that guard against known vulnerabilities. Keeping your OS up-to-date is crucial for having optimized security. Go to your mobile devices settings to enable automatic updates and check frequently to make sure you’re up-to-date.
Connect to secure WiFi
It is exceptionally easy to steal information from devices on unsecured, public WiFi (like at a hotel or coffee shop). Try to only use networks you trust that are secured with a passcode. That also means keeping your home network private. If you have to use public/open WiFi, be sure to use a VPN (virtual private network) to protect your information. We’ll talk more about VPNs and how they’re useful in the near future.
Beware of downloads
If a weak password is like leaving the door open for cyber theft, downloading suspicious files is like inviting the thieves into your house. Only download apps from official app stores. Check reviews before downloading the app to be certain it’s legitimate, and look at the publisher information. Never download files from spammers or untrustworthy websites. If you’re suspicious of an app or file, it’s generally safest to avoid it. Both the Google Play and Apple App Store provide notices about what data an app might collect or store about you. Always check these notices and ensure you trust the app publisher with whatever information you are granting them access to.
Don’t jailbreak or root your phone
“Jailbreaking” or “rooting” is the process of exploiting flaws in a secured device to gain unrestricted access to a phone’s operating system and apps. Some mobile device owners will jailbreak their phones so they can access all features, download restricted software, and take other actions the OS would not normally allow. It’s called jailbreaking because it removes the “walls,” or restrictions, of the perceived jail.
The danger here is that those walls aren’t just meant to keep you in; they’re also to keep hackers out. Jailbreaking a phone makes it drastically easier for cyber attacks to gain a foothold. Removing these safeguards is never recommended, especially for business devices. Keep in mind that apps only available to download through a jailbroken device have not been vetted by the official app store and pose a significant security threat. Also, jailbreaking usually voids the manufacturer’s warranty. Jailbreak at your own risk.
Encrypt your data
What if a cyber attack succeeds and someone manages to gain access to your information, despite your best efforts? It’s only a problem if the hacker can understand your data. This is where encryption comes into play.
Encryption changes your data so that it’s unreadable without proper authorization. Encrypted data is useless to hackers without the encryption key, and can be enough of a deterrent to keep attackers from using your information. Most phones, including iPhones and Android, have built-in encryption settings that you can enable in your device settings.
Install antivirus software
You’re likely aware of the need for antivirus software on your computer, but mobile devices benefit as well. Antivirus apps or software can be an invaluable layer of security. There are numerous options, some paid and some free; some will include a built-in VPN for even more protection. Just like anything else you download, though, check reviews and make sure the software is from a legitimate publisher.
Putting it all together
While any of these suggestions alone will help make your data safer, you’ll get the best results by implementing all of them. If these tasks feel a bit daunting, don’t worry – we can help! Call Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy at (877) 300-4050 and protect your data today.