If you’re like most people, you probably spend more time on your phone than you do on your computer. It’s easy to see why.
Smartphones are small and portable. And with each successive generation, the software and hardware both become more powerful. The most recent iPhone, for example, can go head-to-head with many of the most popular laptops on the market.
This explains why, for many Americans, their smartphones are the:
- Last thing they check at night
- First thing they check in the morning
Therein lies the problem.
Our mobile devices know everything about us. In fact, they’ve been designed from the ground up to track and monitor our every move, including our:
- Search histories
- Shopping habits
- Financial activity
So, it’s little surprise that criminals often concentrate their efforts on hacking into mobile devices instead of clunky desktop and laptop counterparts. Analyzing people’s smartphones can tell you a lot more than reading their journals or talking to their therapists.
As such, it’s vital that you take common sense steps to reduce mobile security threats. This is true whether you use your smartphone for personal use, the office, or both (which is increasingly the case for many American workers).
Below are nine powerful mobile security threats and prevention strategies to get you started.
1. Keep Your Phone on You at All Times
This is probably the easiest way to reduce physical mobile security threats (i.e., having your device stolen). For most of us, this strategy requires little effort since our phones actually do stay with us at all times.
2. Password-Protect Your Phone
According to security specialist firm Kaspersky Lab, 52 percent of smartphone users don’t password-protect their devices. Therefore, if anyone does gain physical access to one of these unsecured phones, they can inflict a significant amount of damage.
Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce this common mobile security threat. For example, you can use any of the following to keep your phone locked when not in use:
- Unique PIN
- Swiping pattern
- Facial recognition
- Fingerprint scanning
- Voice activation
If you use just one of these, you’ll officially be in the “relatively safe” minority. The more authentication steps you implement, the better.
It’s worth considering using at least one password protection measure that doesn’t rely on biometric verification. That’s because courts can legally compel you to provide fingerprints or facial snapshots, but they can’t necessarily force you to type in a PIN.
3. Keep Your Phone Updated with Patches
Make sure your phone is up-to-date with all of the latest software upgrades and patches. That’s because many criminals deliberately target computers and mobile devices that still use outdated, unsecured software.
The WannaCry attack of 2017, for example, exploited vulnerabilities in Windows XP, an operating system that was first released in 2001.
4. Never Click on Strange Links
This is a no-brainer, but it’s worth stating clearly here.
Don’t click on suspicious links, messages, texts, ads or pop-ups. These malicious assets are frequently used by criminals to gain direct entry into your device.
5. Don’t Jailbreak Your Phone
There are sometimes really cool apps that work only in certain countries or with specific phone models. It’s tempting to “jailbreak” or “root” your mobile device so you can use these restricted apps.
In doing so, you expose yourself to a much broader range of mobile security threats. It’s better to stick with official apps that work with the most stable (and recent) version of your device’s operating system.
6. Avoid Public Wi-Fi
You’d be surprised how easy it is for criminals to create fake, unsecured Wi-Fi hubs in crowded areas. These networks look legit, but the moment you log on, a hacker can instantly begin intercepting any data you send and receive.
The same is true of Bluetooth technology. Keep this feature turned off when you’re not using it. Instead, stick with cellular data or Wi-Fi networks associated with trusted brands or people.
7. Use a Different Password for Every Site
This tip is more of a generic suggestion for all devices (including computers, smartphones and tablets), but you should always use a secure, unique password for every site — especially those that have access to your financial data.
8. Keep Your Phone Clean
It’s always a good idea to regularly clean your phone. By that, we mean you should:
- Delete any apps you’re not currently using.
- Disable app-level access for nonessential tasks. Your phone’s dictionary, for example, doesn’t need to know your location.
- Clear your cookies and caches on a regular basis. You can do this easily, both on iPhone and Android.
9. Install Mobile Security Apps
Many of the antivirus tools we use for laptop and desktop computers also have smartphone counterparts. Although there are no mobile security apps that offer 100 percent protection, they can help make your phone a less likely target for hacking.
For a list of popular mobile security apps for Android and iPhone, click here.
Additional Mobile Security Tips
Most of the suggestions above are device-agnostic, meaning you can implement them just as easily on your smartphone as you can on your desktop.
And you absolutely should safeguard every device that you can. But don’t stop there.
Whether at home or in the office, it’s not uncommon for everyone to share telecom infrastructure — i.e., servers, routers and logins. So, be sure to share these mobile security tips with both family members and colleagues. If a criminal successfully exploits one point of entry, he or she may be able to affect every other device on that network.