The one device it is guaranteed that almost all of us have is a smartphone — probably permanently attached to our hands. These phones often hold lots of vital data: contacts, photos, and even health data. Despite this, many of us do not worry enough about the security of these most-used devices.
However, some simple steps can help you keep your mobile phone secure.
Keep your OS up to date
Updates for mobile phone operating systems are released often to improve security and performance. The sheer frequency of these updates, coupled with worries about how much space they will take up in the phone’s memory, and concerns about the impact they may have on a phone’s battery performance, often deter people from downloading them. Phone users also sometimes worry that the phone may crash during an update, causing them to lose data.
A further issue with Android updates is that users are dependent on their phone’s manufacturer releasing the update: not all Android phones are created equal, and some have to wait longer for updates than others. Sometimes, some Android updates are never released on certain makes of phone.
However, it is important to download updates to your smartphone — both iOS and Android — as soon as they become available. These updates can protect against newly discovered threats and vulnerabilities and help keep your phone safe.
Password protect your smartphone
This may seem blindingly obvious, but a surprisingly high percentage of people do not password protect their smartphones. Research by the Pew Research Center in the U.S. found that almost one third of those surveyed didn’t password protect their smartphone. Not doing this makes your phone a lot more attractive to thieves, who can more easily wipe it and pass it on, as well as making it trivial for anyone who wishes to snoop on your private communications to do so.
While some people may think password protection is unnecessary in the age of biometric identification, this is not true. Various court rulings in the U.S. have established that individuals can be compelled by law enforcement to unlock a phone using a biometric idientifier such as a fingerprint, but many courts in the U.S. have ruled that people cannot be compelled to reveal their passcode — provided they have enabled one, that is!
Do not jailbreak your phone and only use official app stores
The temptation for iPhone users to jailbreak their phone so they can use app stores other than the official Apple App Store is often strong, but it really is putting the security of your phone at risk. The close vetting process that apps that enter the official Apple App Store undergo drastically reduces (though does not entirely eliminate) the chances of a dodgy app making its way onto your iPhone. The same is true for Android. While dodgy apps do sometimes make their way onto the official Google Store, you are still less likely to encounter malicious apps there than if you use a third-party app store.
Dodgy apps could install spyware or steal information such as banking details from your smartphone, so downloading them is really not worth the risk.
Be aware of the risks of public Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
It is always tempting to connect to public Wi-Fi when it is available, however, public Wi-Fi networks can make it trivial for an attacker to intercept the traffic you are sending over the unencrypted network. For this reason it is recommended to never send sensitive information over public Wi-Fi — for example, do not enter passwords or carry out internet banking transactions when connected to public Wi-Fi.
To increase your security on public Wi-Fi, using a mobile VPN could also be an option. However, ensure that the mobile VPN you download is legitimate and not harvesting any data off your phone.
Be careful of Bluetooth use on your phone, too. Not only does it use up your battery life, if can also offer attackers another way to compromise your smartphone. Turn it off if you are not using it.
Download security software for your phone
While people are generally fairly vigilant about downloading security software to protect their laptops and desktop computers, they are not always so vigilant about protecting their smartphones. However, it is highly recommended to download a good security package for your mobile, such as Norton Mobile Security.
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