Your smartphone is under attack by hackers who see it as a treasure trove of data that they can potentially use for nefarious purposes like identity theft. It contains information on who you call, how long you talk, and how often you call. It has pictures of your family, friends, and pets. It stores all of your passwords, including banking information, conveniently in one place. It faithfully records your browser history, contains your emails and IMs, and much, much more.
Even though parties ranging from lone wolf hackers to organized crime syndicates are interested in getting their hands on your information, it appears as though many people are taking unnecessary risks. Consider the results of a Pew Research Center study, for instance:
- 28% of smartphone owners acknowledge that they don’t employ screen lock or other security measures to access their smartphone
- 40% of smartphone owners will only update the apps and operating system on their mobile devices when they find it convenient
- 14% smartphone owners admit that they never update the operating system on their phone
- 10% of smartphone owners don’t update their apps
- 54% of Internet users access public wi-fi networks — and 21% of them shop online using these networks while 20% of them do online banking on these networks
It’s critically important that you be mindful of the software component of your smartphone since failing to do so can leave you open to security issues. This section will highlight some of the things you need to do on the software front to keep your mobile device safe and sound.
OS/APP UPDATES: Be sure to keep your smartphone operating system up to date. If you’re one of those mobile device owners who tend to update your OS software whenever it’s convenient, drop that habit pronto. Having the newest OS will help to prevent a lot of security problems since updates will have patches and features to keep you safer. Also, when you download apps, don’t think that it ends there. You need to download patches and updates whenever they become available if you want to reduce, if not entirely eliminate, risks. Oftentimes, an update includes important protection in response to uncovered vulnerabilities. But if you fail to stay on top of things, you’ll miss out on the protection and be at heightened risk.
VIRUS PROTECTION: Antivirus software, which should include anti-malware protection, will prevent, find, and eradicate viruses and malware before they have a chance to compromise your smartphone. But installing virus protection software is not enough. You also need to ensure that it’s up to date so that you can safeguard your smartphone from the latest threats. Be sure to scan regularly to ensure that your phone has not been infected with a virus or malware.
REPUTABLE APP STORES: Stick with the official app store that corresponds to the smartphone that you have. So, if you have an iPhone, then the Apple App Store is for you. And if you have an Android, then you need to go to Google Play Store to find apps to download. There are other third-party app stores that are available, but patronizing them will increase your risks of downloading apps containing malware or viruses. One thing to consider is that you won’t be risk-free even if you stick with the official app store for your device. So, you should look for popular apps that have the following features:
- Lots of downloads
- High ratings
- Reputable developer
MOBILE DIAGNOSTICS: Third-party mobile diagnostics is also a good idea in the fight to protect your smartphone. For instance, you can use mobile diagnostics to uncover and resolve defects that, unfixed, would leave your mobile device open to exploitation by hackers.
PERMISSIONS: You no doubt know that your smartphone will often give you some flexibility in terms of what data specific apps can and can’t gain access to. When dealing with permissions control, don’t allow apps to use any more data than is reasonable. So, the next time an app seeks permission to access your microphone, contact list, pictures, microphone, and other things, ask yourself if the requests are reasonable given the function of the app.
Just like it’s important to protect the software on your smartphone, it’s also critical that you protect the physical integrity of your mobile device. In addition to keeping it on your person or in a safe place, there are other things you can do to protect your smartphone.
REPUTABLE BRANDS: You obviously don’t have to stick to models from Apple and Samsung to have a secure smartphone. But it pays to stick to models that benefit from regular updates, such as iPhones and Google’s Pixel lineup, since the frequent updates translate into better security. Another important thing to remember is that the more security-conscious brands will continue to get updates in the years ahead. Manufacturers whose commitment to frequent updates are reportedly questionable include ZTE and Huawei.
PIN/PASSCODE: There’s no excuse not to use a PIN or passcode on your mobile device. What it does is lock your mobile device so that no one can access it should it fall into the wrong hands. It might seem like a nuisance to have to enter a PIN or passcode everytime time you access your phone after having left it unused for a period of time. However, the benefits of doing so justify whatever inconvenience you might encounter. Of course, some smartphones offer face scanner technology and fingerprint technology that will ensure that you’re the only one who is able to unlock your phone. In fact, earlier this Chinese smartphone brand Vivo became the first-ever smartphone to be shipped with fingerprint sensors integrated into the display. If you want 3D facial recognition technology, the iPhone X from Apple is the way to go since it could take until 2019 until Android mobile devices have a technology to rival Apple’s Face ID.
ENCRYPTION: Encryption is a must on your smartphone if you want to safeguard data related to, among other things, emails, banking apps, and contacts. When your phone is encrypted, you won’t have to worry about people gaining access to your confidential information if, perchance, your phone is lost or stolen. Be sure to find out about the encryption procedure on your device and then take whatever steps may be required to enable it.
DON’T JAILBREAK: Some iPhone users like to jailbreak their smartphone to break free of Apple’s restrictions relating to what apps and extensions can be installed on the mobile device. The equivalent to this practice for Android users is rooting the device. This might appear to be liberating, but it’s actually a mistake. The reason you should avoid it is that you could unwittingly end up downloading suspicious apps that might have malware integrated into them.
SECURITY KEY: In late July of this year, Google claimed that not even one of its more than 85,000 workers had suffered hacked accounts since near the beginning of 2017. The reason for this feat, said the company, was an early edition of a security key that was in testing mode at the time. The device, known as the Titan Security Key, will be made available to the public by the conclusion of the summer. The multifactor authentication capabilities will protect against phishing attacks. The reason this solution stands to be effective is that whoever logs into your smartphone will need the security key in order to prove that they own the mobile device.
Protecting your smartphone from attacks will take a comprehensive effort since the threats are coming from many directions. If you’re mindful of the aforementioned tips, you’ll be able to protect your smartphone, both the hardware and the software, so that it functions optimally. Yes, your smartphone is under attack. But there are ways to successfully repel these attacks.