5 Tips To Safeguard Your Smartphone

5 Tips To Safeguard Your Smartphone

Imagine seeing your bank account draining to zero right before your eyes, unable to do anything about it.

Unfortunately, while you only imagine this, last year saw many people in the US actually experience this as the password-stealing “Zeus” Trojan virus was discovered by security firm Fortinet. Cyber criminals used a fake banking authentication app (based on legitimate software used to confirm customers and securely log into banks’ online portals) to spread a version of the “Zeus” Trojan Virus to Android devices, which would listen to all incoming SMS messages and forward them to a remote web server where the criminals sifted through the data, selecting information about online banking, using it to drain accounts.

Pretty scary stuff, especially when all a hacker requires is for you to download their malicious app that can easily be disguised as a safe, authentic app for the unaware.

So, whether you have an iPhone, Android device, WP8 device or a Blackberry, keeping your smartphone safe from cyber attacks is becoming more and more important as we start using our phones more for financial transactions and for storing sensitive data.

In fact, according to a survey conducted by F-Secure (a digital security company), 57% of mobile phone users in the survey said their mobile phone contains more important information than their wallet! We access our bank accounts, shop online, trade shares, store important work documents, email and store contacts on our mobile phones and now with NFC technology slowly creeping into mobile phones, they could become our digital wallet.

It makes sense then, that we should be treating our smartphone like our wallets by doing everything in our power to keep it out of access of others. Unfortunately, many smartphone users are unaware of just how easy it is for a hacker to obtain access to the information stored on their smartphone and do not take the necessary steps to secure their data.

To help you increase the level of security on your smartphone, we have come up with 5 critical steps to keep your sensitive personal and financial information safe:

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Links

Think before you click.

Phishing scams are more powerful on mobiles and links can lead to scams or possibly even bad apps. You’d never click on an attachment from a stranger in your email, so why would you do it on your mobile?

It’s best to think of links in emails the same way whether you’re on your phone or your PC. Do not click on unsolicited or unexpected links in emails and SMS messages, or open multimedia messags (MMS) or attachements in emails even if they are from your friends.

Verify the link first to safe yourself from a potentially unsafe site.

Downloads

The biggest drawcard for smartphones is, without a doubt, the huge array of apps available for download. Make sure you stick to trusted app marketplaces, vendors and sites when downloading applications from the web. For smartphones, only download apps from the application store or website of your mobile phone operating system or manufacturer i.e. Google Play for Android and the App Store for iOS devices.

However, it is important to note that while these application stores or websites are reputable and trusted, there have been instances of malicious apps managing to find their way into the marketplace, even into Apple’s strictly controlled App Store. So, it is important that while you are looking at apps to download that you take the extra precaution of checking out the reviews of the app and researching the vendors you’ve never heard of, there is a good chance that you will only install safe apps by doing this.

Also be aware of software asking to be installed when you did not seek it out. If any app asks to install itself without you intentionally seeking it out, immediately cancel if possible.

App Permissions

app permissionsMany apps will request access to a variety of information such as location or your phonebook that they claim is needed for the app to function, these are called permissions which the user has to allow.

An example of a genuine app permission would be a navigation app requesting permission to access your location , while a dodgy permission would go along the lines of an app for the game Scrabble asking to access your phonebook.

Based on research from security firm McAfee, 33% of apps ask for more permissions than they need, while 83% of users don’t pay attention to permissions when installing an app.

Why do permissions matter? With some of these permissions, someone can:

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  • Turn on your camera
  • Monitor, modify or kill outgoing calls
  • Record images of your screen while you enter personal information
  • Monitor and view texts an pictures
  • Capture conversations in the room when no call is active

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All of these things can be done remotely, without your knowledge, just because you didn’t take the time to check the permissions of that new game you’ve downloaded.

The best thing you can do with app permissions is to look carefully at what data the app is going to access on your mobile device. If something doesn’t look right, don’t install the app.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth has been a great and convenient technology for smartphones, as it enables you to wirelessly connect to devices and transfer information over short distances.

For Bluetooth to work, devices need to see each other and then connect, which potentially opens up your phone to hackers if you are in a public place. It is best to leave to your phone in undiscoverable mode (hidden) so that it is only visible when you specifically need other people or devices to see it. By keeping it hidden, it means hackers cannot easily see your phone and they cannot easily connect to it unless they already have your Bluetooth address.

The best time to connect using Bluetooth is in private, away from crowded, public places.

Security Apps and Updates

Just like a PC, with every update to a phone’s software brings fixes for known vulnerabilities. By continuously keeping the software on your phone updated, you are ensuring that vulnerabilities in the old software are fixed, thereby making your phone more secure. Take any software update from your provider or phone manufacturer offers as soon as you can. It is also worth it to keep your apps updated too as the developers of these apps will be continuously improving the security surrounding the app.

It is definitely worth installing a reputable Anti-virus, anti-theft, anti-malware and firewall software app for your smartphone, which will provide a variety of features to improve the security of your smartphone.

For some recommendations on mobile security software to install, check out our list of top Android security apps here and iOS security apps here.

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