Smart Phone Security

-by John Dunker- In the past we have discussed the many different aspects of computer security to protect us from malware and identity theft. Now that a majority of people own smartphones, perhaps a few words on securing these devices are in order. Smartphones, after all, are no more than small computers we carry around and are just as vulnerable as desktop and laptop systems including tablets. Hackers are well aware how much smartphones are used in our daily lives. They can easily exploit this for their own gain.
If you are like me and use a “dumb” cellphone without an Internet connection, you have less to be concerned about. Dumb cellphones can still receive phishing text messages and phone calls, but unless you respond in some manner with personal information the risk is low. On the other hand, Smartphones connected to the Internet are more susceptible to malware ranging from viruses and spyware.
A few general tips will help keep you safe. Losing your smartphone can be pretty stressful. Each day thousands are lost or stolen. Since smartphones are much easier to lose or misplace than larger computers, always be aware of how you manage it as you would with your keys. Use a pin, password or pattern to lock your phone. Setting this up is easy. For most Android devices, go to your Location & Security Settings for instructions. IPhone users can find these functions in the General options of their settings.
Download apps for your smartphone only from trusted stores. If you’re browsing for a new game or something more productive, use places such as Google Play for Android systems. Make sure you check ratings and reviews if they are available, and read the app’s privacy policy to see exactly what phone features it will have access to if you download. The same goes for iPhones and Windows 10 smartphone systems.
Log out of sites after you make a payment. If you bank or shop from your smartphone, log out of those sites once your transactions are complete. I also recommend not storing your usernames and passwords on your phone and avoiding transactions while you are connected to the Internets on public Wi-Fi. Turn off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use. You might think of this as a way to connect to something, but thieves can use them to connect to your device and access files.
Of course avoid giving out personal information. A text message that looks to be from your bank may not be. If you get requests via email or text for account information from any business, contact the business directly to confirm the request. The same advice goes for tapping on links in unsolicited emails or texts.
Keep your smartphone’s operating system and apps updated. There are typically periodic updates to both of these that not only add new features, but also offer tightened security.
If you’re not running some kind security app on your smartphone, then you’re putting yourself at risk of infection from corrupted apps and other kinds of malware. The good news is that your options are far from limited. The best mobile antivirus apps offer not only top-notch malware detection and prevention, but also a range of privacy and anti-theft features. These include the ability to back up your contacts and other data, track your phone or tablet using its internal GPS chip, and even snap a picture of a phone thief with the device’s camera.
There are many security apps you can download and install to further protect yourself. Many of these apps are free and will help monitor your smartphone activity and prevent malware from installing. I suggest you research online and install a good security app for your phone’s operating system. As mentioned above, only download these security apps from a trusted source appropriate to your phones operating system.
On a final note I want to address an overall security issue that not only applies to smartphones, but to any digital device that runs software apps or programs. We should all take time to read the “privacy terms and conditions” before installing any type of software. There can be a lot of small print to read through, but your right to privacy could be in jeopardy if you agree to certain terms and condition in order to use the app or program.
As an example; people who have recently downloaded and installed the free release of Windows 10 had to agree to 45 pages of terms and conditions. Within this document Microsoft states, “we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications, or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services.”
You need to clearly understand which personal information and online activity you have stored on your device that can be accessed by the company who’s app or program you are installing. If possible, opt out of conditions you don’t agree with, or don’t install the app if it requires information you’re unwilling to share. Be careful and aware of how you use personal information, and you’ll be safer by doing so.