How To Protect My Information On Mobile Devices
People basically rely on their phones for virtually everything nowadays, from browsing the web, shopping online, checking credit card statements, logging into unprotected Wi-Fi hotspots and so much. All these activities put your personal information at greater risk of being accessed by other people who are taking advantage of the ignorance of mobile users.
If such people get their hands on your personal information either by hacking or intruding into your phone, they might use it to either embarrass, steal money or even your identity. It’s always good to know exactly where you rank and what you can do to mitigate the risk. Thankfully, some simple and easy steps do exist, that can be used to keep your information private and beef up mobile security. Check out these 10 tips.
Trust your app store only
By default, your smartphones and tablets are set to allow installation of third party apps only through their respective app stores. Android devices use Google Play Store, iOS devices use App Store while Windows Phone has Windows Store. Even in the case that you are allowed to install applications from unknown locations, like with most androids, you probably should not do that.
App stores are usually regulated using stringent rules to ensure that any malicious apps are not onboard. These app stores offer reasonable protection against any form of malware. Not only does app stores review the apps uploaded, but phones also continue to scan those installed form the store to ensure that they are not crossing the line beyond what they are allowed to do.
Outside apps such as those downloaded from third party sites can’t guarantee the type of protection offered by app stores. Sharing of apps through phones shouldn’t be done as well. The only application that should be allowed to run on your device should be from an app store.
If using an Android device, simply disable the option of “Unknown Sources” found under the security settings. This will give you the guarantee that your apps are safe and their sources can be trusted.
Limit app access
Usually, when installing a new app, the device requests you to confirm what the app is allowed to access. In most cases, apps need to access the storage directory (saving), camera (capturing images) or maybe the GPS feature (to filter content according to your location). As for others, they may need to access your contacts, messages, profile information, etc.
Even though it is virtually impossible to use a mobile device without allowing the apps to access these things, you shouldn’t make it a norm of allowing everything. Many apps actually collect personal information such as emails and contacts to sell to other companies and advertisers. It’s not a surprise to see an app demanding more access than what they should actually have. For instance, does a flashlight app has anything to do with your contacts or even location?
When installing an app, takes some time to see what the app can access. If an app is requesting access to something that is not directly related to what it does, simply find an alternative app that does the same thing from the store.
Have your lock screen secured
This sounds pretty straightforward, yet it’s what mostly provide breach of privacy when your device is not with you. Despite that, most people still don’t lock their phones. It is understandable that typing a password every time when accessing the phone can be a real pain, but the effort is worth it.
If you were to lose your phone through theft or simply misplacing it, anyone who finds it can access all the information on the device: personal files, Facebook account, photos, shopping apps and more.
Why not use a pattern instead? Because a pattern is barely more secure than a swipe. If you’ve been using the same pattern for some time without wiping the screen, tilting it at an angle while facing the sun will highlight the pattern. Even if someone may not figure out the starting point, but they’ll ultimately be able to unlock it after several trials.
If you think the pattern is more convenient for you, then you should be wiping it every time after use. But that’s not what is probably going to happen with many people. Always trust your security to nothing less than a PIN or a password that includes even characters.
Always mind your phone
As more features are continually added with the new devices being launched, the more reliant people become on the devices. And there’s no way someone can stop using the mobile devices so as to keep their private information secure.
Smartphones have emerged to become our cameras, wallets, notebooks and personal safes. Since no one would leave any of these items lying around to be accessed by anyone, there’s no point why you should leave your mobile device to be picked by anyone.
Always take the same precautions with your phone. Always mind it wherever you go so as to keep off any unauthorized access. The more you are careful with your phone, the less likely it is to get lost or misplaced. If pocketing it, ensure the pocket used is deep enough to not allow it fall off as you walk. In short, mind your phone as you would mind any other valuables.
Set a remote phone locator
A number of phone antivirus apps include a feature that lets you find your phone remotely and flush its memory. This feature becomes very helpful in the event that you lost your phone. If you have not set up such a feature on your device, then you’re losing a greater part of advanced security measure.
Through your phone’s GPS, you will be able to track its location and find it. Some even allow you to ring it if it’s within range. If it becomes practically difficult to find it or fear that someone else has taken hold of it, you can wipe all your private data remotely. Even in the event that the thief manages to crack your password, they won’t be able to access your private information.
Install antivirus app
Most people assume that phone malware are practically minimal and hardly affect a phone. Well, that may be a case of the past. Nowadays almost anyone can program a mobile app, and with the fact that platforms such as Android are open source, the risk of attack by malware is high. It does not matter the type of platform your phone is running on or how secure the builder claimed it is. So long as you are access the web, it is vulnerable to malware attacks.
Luckily, there are so many apps available on app stores for free for every operating system. These security apps also have firewalls that protect your device whenever connected to a network. They also monitor the other apps on your phone against sending anonymous data without your notice. Most security apps will pop up notifications when an app with suspicious behavior is identified. You can then take an action of uninstalling such an app. You can download security apps from app stores for free, though others may offer free trial periods after which you’ll be expected to make a purchase.
Be cautious on free networks
It’s a common thing to find free hotspots at coffee shops and other public places. It’s obvious that most us wouldn’t want to spend a great deal of money on buying data plans when they can access strong internet for free.
However, do note that unprotected networks are vulnerability grounds since anyone including the bad guys can access them. When you connect to such a network, you are opening your device for access by anyone else connected on the network. Most amateur hackers like spying on other users on such networks.
If you can’t avoid using the public networks, then simply be smart on it. For instance, if you just wanted to find out about a story with no connection to personal information simply go ahead. But if you were thinking about buying those attractive pair of shoes you saw the other day, just wait till you have your own data plan.
If you want to visit a secure website while in the open, simply use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPN encrypts all the activities taking place so that nobody else can track them. Most business Wi-Fi are offered on a VPN for access by employees, enabling them to access the company’s network remotely. There are home routers that also offer VPN.
Wipe it before transferring ownership
When we upgrade to a more advanced phone, most of us tend to give away our older phones, or even sell them. But when doing that, not so many think about securing the information contained in the phone. Most people only change the lock screen password if at all it was available and give it away. This also puts your private information at risk. Even if the person given the phone does not have malicious intents, they will put your privacy at jeopardy when using the device.
Before giving your phone away, always wipe it clean of all the personal information saved. It’s the best way to remain safe.
Always update your phone with new update releases
Some time back there were issues with Apple’s iPhones where text messages sent in other languages such as Chinese would lead to the phone crashing. After complaints by users, Apple fixed the problem by releasing an update to the operating system. The same with your phone, always check for updates not only the operating system but also third party apps. Builders of applications often release updates to fix bug issues with their older versions.
While some of the updates may involve inclusion of cooler functionalities, others can fix any critical security vulnerability. You’ll always be notified when an update is available. This should be done especially with the shopping apps or social media apps. Ignore the updates at your own peril.
Think before you download, click or forward
Do not rapidly respond to requests to download, click a link, or even provide your information. Always get the facts about a particular service before committing to it. You can simply visit the company’s website and check for hidden fees, scam reviews, or even association with malware. Verify the claims of a request independently.
Always have a backup
How many contacts of your friends or family can you remember? For most people, the only storage for their mobile information is on their devices. Should it get lost, then everything is gone. That makes the loss of a phone very painful, not only does it put your privacy at risk, but you simply have to start a fresh if you didn’t have a backup. With a backup, you are guaranteed of access to your information even when your phone is not with you. The best form of backup you can have is an online backup.
Luckily, Google already provides contact backup for those users who have their Gmail accounts as primary email for their android devices. If not using an Android, you can find backup service from your phone manufacturer.