Smartphones are so small and portable that it is easy to forget that you have a powerful computer in your pocket or purse. However, they are increasingly becoming the target of theft, ransomware, viruses, and other types of malware. As a result, you need to take steps to protect your device as well as the data on it.
Here are seven measures you can take to secure your smartphone:
Locking your smartphone when it is not in use protects your data if your device is lost or stolen. How you lock your smartphone will depend on the type of device you have. Most smartphones use passcodes, but some devices provide alternate methods such as fingerprint scans and facial recognition.
If you use a passcode to lock your smartphone, make sure it is at least six digits long. Four-digit passcodes are easily cracked.
Jailbreaking refers to bypassing the restrictions the smartphone vendor puts on the device’s operating system. This practice is also referred to as rooting. Some people jailbreak their smartphones to gain full control of them. For example, jailbreaking allows individuals to install apps and make tweaks that are not authorized by the vendors.
Although gaining full control might sound appealing, it is best to leave your smartphone alone. Jailbreaking will remove the security protections built into your smartphone’s operating system, leaving the device more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Plus, it will likely void any warranty that the vendor provides. In a few high-end Android smartphones, jailbreaking even triggers the automatic erasure of all the data stored on them.
People love free apps. Cybercriminals know this, so they fill third-party app stores with complimentary programs that contain malware. For this reason, you should only download apps from trusted sources. Sadly, though, even that is no guarantee that the programs are safe to use. Sometimes malicious apps are found in reputable sources. For example, in August 2016, Check Point researchers discovered that 40 apps in the Google Play store contained a new malware strain dubbed DressCode. They found another 400 programs embedded with DressCode in third-party app stores.
Because reputable sources sometimes include malicious apps, you should research a program before downloading it. Plus, when you install an app, you need to review its permissions and privacy settings rather than blindly accepting them. Some legitimate apps access data or perform functions not related to their purpose. For instance, a program might want to track your location, even though it does not need that data to work properly.
You should install operating system, app, and firmware updates as soon as they are available to help protect your smartphone from cyberattacks that exploit known security vulnerabilities. The easiest way to ensure that updates get installed promptly is to enable automatic updates when that feature is available.
Your smartphone’s Bluetooth connection can be hacked any time it is turned on, even when it is not in use. Besides posing a security risk, keeping it enabled drains your battery. So, consider disabling the Bluetooth connection when you are not using it.
Smartphones often include built-in security features to protect your device if it is lost or stolen. For example, they often have a feature that helps you locate your phone if you misplace it and one that lets you remotely erase your data if your device is stolen. It is wise to take advantage of these features should the need arise.
You need to regularly back up and securely store the data (e.g., contacts, photos) on your smartphone. That way, you will not lose your data if your phone becomes infected with ransomware, gets lost, or gets stolen.
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