- The typical smartphone contains tons of personal information, like credit card numbers, passwords, addresses, and other data.
- Business Insider asked experts how people can make their smartphones more secure.
- Experts recommend steps like using two-factor password authentication and avoiding charging phones in public places.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Smartphone users rely on their devices for just about everything: business, shopping, communication, entertainment, and the list goes on.
But despite our reliance on our phones, many of us are not using them safely.
Consider the most basic of safety precautions: locking your home screen. According to a 2017 Pew report, nearly 30% of smartphone owners do not use a screen lock or other security features to access their phone.
Lapses like that can make users prey to cybersecurity breaches. To avoid having personal information and passwords stolen, take these 10 safety precautions to make your mobile device more secure.
Lock your home screen.
Locking your home screen is an obvious solution to keeping your private information private, and can protect you from unwanted eyes skimming through your phone.
“Locking your screen when you’re not directly using it prevents anyone within reach from accessing its contents,” Stacy Caprio, founder of Accelerated Growth Marketing, told Business Insider. “Additionally, consider going into your settings and increasing your password length to the maximum allowed to make your phone harder to hack into if someone does get access and tries to break in.”
Use caller protection apps.
Burner helps you keep your private number private by generating new phone numbers that can be used as long as you like and then “burned,” or disposed of. Meanwhile, Firewall allows iOS users to send unwanted calls straight to voicemail without a single ring.
Avoid charging your phone in public ports.
This one may hurt a little to discover, but charging your phone in public charging stations – the kind found in airports, transit stations, planes, conference and shopping centres – can make you susceptible to a security breach.
That’s because connecting to a public port does more than charge your phone – it also transmits data. If an outlet is compromised, then a hacker could access your emails, texts, photos, and contacts. This technique of hacking phones is known as “juice jacking,” according to Krebs on Security, a news outlet on cybercrime and computer security.
“Just by plugging your phone into a (compromised) power strip or charger, your device is now infected and that compromises all your data,” Drew Paik of security firm Authentic8 told CNN.
Use two-factor authentication.
Extra steps can seem tedious, but this is not the case for two-factor authentication. This security step double-checks your identity is legitimate before letting you use a particular account, like your email.
A common form of two-factor authentication is one that generates a time-sensitive code that’s sent to your phone through text message. The code is good for one-time use, and once you enter it, you can access your account.
It’s a little extra work for you, but it makes it much harder for a bad actor to breach your account.
Update your phone’s software regularly.
You may avoid accepting those notifications for phone updates like the plague, but doing so can reduce the chances of your phone being hacked.
“Even though it can be an annoyance or a headache at times, it’s for your own good,” Liz Hamilton, a director at Mobile Klinik, told Business Insider. “The longer you go without updating your phone and software, the longer your data is at risk for any malware malfunction.”
Turn your bluetooth and Wi-Fi off when not in use.
Hacking bluetooth channels is a common form of invasion hackers use to invade your privacy. Oftentimes, iPhones’ and Androids’ bluetooth is on by default and, although that may save you a tap of the finger, it can also be a safety issue.
“Via bluetooth channel hackers could mask a malicious device and try to make it seem like a legitimate device so that you connect your phone with it,” Somdip Dey, an artificial intelligence scientist at the University of Essex and Samsung R&D Institute UK, told Business Insider.
Also, be sure to double-check which devices you are connecting to, especially when it is not your own bluetooth or it’s your first time connecting.
“Once the hacker gets access to your phone through the malicious device, the hacker could exploit several other security breaches through it,” Dey said.
Stop jailbreaking or rooting your device.
Jailbreaking your iPhone or rooting your Android has a number of appealing benefits, like allowing you to customise your phone, improve battery life, or download unapproved apps. But think twice before you do it – the practice can also make your devices vulnerable.
“Jailbreaking your phone can cause it to become more open to hackers, too, which could really be devastating,” security analyst Robert Siciliano told Business Insider.
Encrypt hotspots from being used by other devices.
Hotspots make your life easier, giving you Wi-Fi at your fingertips wherever you go. But they can also make your life a headache if they are not protected.
That’s because hotspots could allow strangers to access data and files on your phone, tablet, and laptop without your knowledge. Protect against this by selecting a strong encryption, or the process of encoding a message, for your hotspot. Sometimes the default encryption might be outdated or not the most secure.
To avoid this, select the most secure hotspot encryption for hotspots, Wireless Protected Access 2, or WPA2. Originating in 2006, WPA2 has the strongest data encryption option, according to LifeWire. While internet users within range might be able to see the traffic on a WPA2 network, it will be protected with the latest encryption key.
Store passwords in encrypted files.
“The most secure way to store or keep sensitive data on your phone is to use some form of password-protected app to store data inside, like LastPass,” Dey told Business Insider. “Even if a hacker gets their hands on the sensitive data, they will be encrypted and would make it difficult for him or her to break in.”
Use a VPN.
Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, allow users to make a secure connection through a private network over the internet. They enable users to send and receive data over public or shared networks without unauthorised users being able to see it.
The VPN keeps your data safe and anonymous by assigning you a temporary IP address and hides your true IP address from every website or email you connect with. Basically, they add an additional layer of protection between you and hackers.
“Rather than using a public network if you’re at a coffee shop or some other public space, use a Virtual Private Network, which gives you a new IP address and encrypts your web traffic in a tunnel,” Gabe Turner, director of content at Security Baron, told Business Insider. “This makes it much less likely that you will be hacked.”
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