Mobile technology is certainly convenient—in fact, many people seem practically unable to do without it. Be careful though, because your mobile phone may be considerably more vulnerable than you think. Hacking isn’t just the stuff of cheesy science fiction anymore. It can happen to anybody, but it doesn’t have to happen to you. Here are 10 tips that you can use to keep the phone you love safe from hackers. Follow some (or all) of these, and you’ll make your mobile phone much safer.
You might not know it, but wifi hotspots in public places offer easy pickings for hackers. A hacker with the right skills and equipment can see exactly what you’re doing online. This might include emails you send, login information you enter into social media, and even financial data. However, there’s an easy way to protect yourself from vulnerability when you’re near a public hotspot: just don’t use it. If you must connect, the best way to do so is through a VPN tool that encrypts your activity. Almost all up to date smartphones have VPN apps available that can make it practically impossible to spy on you.
One of the simplest ways to protect your phone from unwanted interference is by making sure it’s up to date. Keep your phone running the latest operating system at all times, since updates are often designed specifically to close loopholes that hackers have found ways to exploit. Can constant software updates be annoying? Absolutely, but they might also save your phone in the event that someone tries to hack it. That’s well worth the annoyance that comes with a slightly different interface.
This might sound a little strange (or extreme, to some users), but it’s an effective way to prevent identity theft, which is a common goal among hackers. The reality is that almost anybody with enough information about you can impersonate you these days. They could use your birthdate and the name of your first pet to unlock your banking records. This kind of thing is pretty rare, but it isn’t unheard of. To make sure your phone isn’t giving hackers the keys to your entire identity, you might want to think about using bogus credentials. Register your device and a few key apps under nicknames or aliases, as long as you can keep them all organized in your mind.
Most apps are developed by good people who just want to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit, but that’s not always the case. From time to time, someone designs an innocuous-looking app specifically for the purposes of hacking into the phones of its users. You can avoid falling victim to these ploys by being extra cautious about the apps you download. Always look for reviews by trusted publications or check feedback from previous customers before you install anything. Android users should be especially mindful of this advice, since iPhone’s App Store tends to have stricter standards for what can be sold on it.
So, you’ve just installed a cool new app and you can’t wait to start using it. The moment you open it for the first time though, a box appears on your screen. It’s asking for permission to access your photos, contacts, or other personal information. If you find yourself in a situation like this one, think carefully before proceeding. Some larger apps by established developers are trustworthy, but if you don’t know much about this one or the people who made it then maybe it’s not worth the risk.
If you’re receiving suspicious text messages from mysterious sources, delete them right away. Furthermore, be extremely skeptical of any message you receive with a link inside, unless it’s from somebody you know and trust. Hackers often impersonate institutions like banks or credit card companies, then send a link inside a message that tries to scare you into clicking it. Once you do, they’ll gain access to your device. Remember: your bank doesn’t text you. Visa doesn’t text you and neither does Mastercard. Instead of panicking, stay a step ahead of the people who are trying to take advantage of you and delete the message.
If you’ve been using your phone to do mobile banking, send important emails, or even change your status on Facebook, it’s good to get in the habit of logging out when you’re finished. Yes, having to log back in again every time can be a pain in the neck, but it’s a lot more convenient than finding out your account has been compromised.
Both Apple and Google have services that can help you find your phone if it’s been physically stolen. Furthermore, each service allows you to lock your phone at a distance, using your laptop, computer, or another device. If you really want to make sure that none of the data on your mobile gets into the hands of the thieves, there’s even an option to completely erase your device remotely. It all depends on how sensitive the information on your phone is.
Some people buy mobile devices just to search for clues left behind by their previous owners. Enough information left on a phone can allow the new owner to learn much more about you than you want them to know—enough to steal your whole identity in some cases. To avoid this, make sure you put your phone through a service that offers state of the art testing and diagnostics information, so that you can be sure it’s really blank before it leaves your possession.
The most obvious way to protect your device is by physically keeping an eye on it at all times. Make sure it’s in your pocket when you’re out at the bar, not resting on the edge of the table—where it could be snatched if you glance away for a second. Common sense remains the best way to stay hack-proof, even in the 21st century.The digital age has many more pitfalls to be aware of than any era before it, but that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to use your mobile phone. On the contrary—get comfortable with your device, and know how to protect it. That way, you’ll always be at minimal risk, and hackers will look for easier targets.