Keeping your smartphone safe
Smartphones have grown from allowing users to simply browse the internet, check email or socialise to doing online banking, shopping and controlling home appliances (and even vehicles) when paired with other devices.
Our smartphones contain sensitive information from personal photos to business contacts and password logins. And due to people’s reliance on and wide usage of those devices, they have become an appealing target for cyber criminals. Thus, understanding how to keep smartphones safe is crucial.
Access to private data
First of all, make sure that the manufacturer (Google, Apple, etc.) hasn’t granted unnecessary access to any private data. Indeed, every time you install a new app, don’t just scroll past the permissions page and hit accept. Especially if the app is from a less well-known publisher – ask yourself whether it really needs all those permissions. In addition, you could switch off permissions such as location tracking or access to camera/microphone as these are features that you don’t need all the time.
VPNs are another important aspect to consider when looking at mobile devices protection, because they aim to encrypt internet traffic to and from a device, in order to keep the web browsing and app usage private. Indeed, many socialising apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger have some level of encryption. Yet whether your messages remain private depends on how difficult it is for a hacker to reverse engineer the app or how easily the company gives into government coercion.
With all the recent cases of IoT devices being hacked due to weak passwords, the importance of strong passwords in smartphone security is undeniable. In addition to having strong, varied passwords, you could use a password manager that encrypts and stores all passwords into a single app.
When you’re backing up your phone data in case your phone is lost or stolen make sure all sensitive information is encrypted. Boxcryptor, Viivo and Cloudfogger all make free apps that you can use to encrypt files locally before uploading to your cloud storage. Similarly, always remember to remove your SIM card when repairing your phone, as it can be used to make purchases or sign up for accounts.
Finally, keeping the device software up to date will nullify vulnerabilities in deprecated or obsolete older versions. We recommend you stick to the latest stable release, but there’s generally no need to use beta or nightly versions that are still being tested.
Richard Patterson, Director, Comparitech