Smartphones are an essential part of modern life. They allow us to regularly keep in touch with friends and family, access information quickly and easily, and even play games. However, smartphones are also incredibly vulnerable to attack. Hackers can steal your data, spy on you, and even cause damage to your device.
If you want to protect yourself against these threats, here are eight practical tips to keep your smartphone safe.
Public Wi-Fi is a convenient way for people to connect their devices to the internet when away from home or office. But it’s not always as private as we’d like. If someone else has control over that network, they could see what websites you visit, read any emails sent through them, and more.
Public Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t just insecure – they’re often open networks with no password protection at all. This means anyone who wants to can log in and start using the service without asking permission first. It may be tempting to think this isn’t much different than connecting to a friend’s wireless router while visiting his house, but there are some key differences.
So before you decide to “trust” a public Wi-Fi hotspot, make sure you know exactly where it is. You should also check whether the owner allows guests to join the network. And finally, don’t forget to change your default browser settings so that only trusted sites will load automatically.
It might seem obvious, but for the sake of your phone security, remember that using weak passwords is one of the most common ways hackers get into our accounts. A password should be long enough so that no hacker would guess it, contain at least 1 number, a lowercase letter, an uppercase letter, a unique character, and have some variation in case. It shouldn’t be something easy to remember, nor should it include personal details such as names, birthdays, addresses, etc.
A good password can be challenging to remember, especially if you need to regularly log in to various services. So instead of trying to come up with a unique password every time you sign in, try creating a master list of commonly used passwords, which you can add new entries to whenever needed. Then, each time you log in, select the password from the list and type it in. That way, you won’t ever have to worry about forgetting your password again!
Software updates often fix security vulnerabilities before hackers find them. So if you haven’t updated your operating system, apps, browser, etc., yet, do it now! You’ll be glad you did later.
Two-factor authentication adds another layer of protection by requiring users to enter something they know and something only they possess. This makes hacking much harder because attackers need to compromise multiple things instead of just one. It’s imperative with online banking where hackers may try to log into your account without knowing your username or password.
Two-factor authentication also helps prevent phishing attacks that attempt to trick you into giving out sensitive information. When you receive an email asking you to verify your identity, check the URL carefully – it will likely look different than usual. Also, make sure there isn’t anything suspicious about the message itself. For example, if it says “Your bank needs to confirm your login” rather than simply saying “Login confirmed,” this means the sender knows your user name and password.
Backups aren’t just helpful in restoring lost files; they’re also great for protecting your phone. When backing up photos, videos, contacts, messages, call logs, calendar events, and other sensitive content, make sure you back up frequently. And remember: backups take time to complete, so plan accordingly.
Backing your data up can be done manually, automatically, or via third-party services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, and many others. You can even set these up to automatically backup every night or at set times.
Hackers sometimes send malicious attachments disguised as images, documents, or PDFs. These attachments look legitimate, which means you won’t think twice about opening them. Instead, open suspicious email attachments directly in your web browser. To prevent attacks, avoid downloading anything from unknown sources. Also, never click on links embedded within text messages unless you trust who sent them.
Of course, not all links are dangerous. As a rule of thumb, always double-check that any connection is safe before following it. If unsure, hover over the link to see what happens. If nothing appears, then proceed cautiously.
Location tracking isn’t necessary all the time. For example, many apps require access to your current location to work correctly. In addition, there are plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t want others to track your whereabouts. Location tracking can reveal information such as how far you’ve walked, whether you visited certain places, and more. Disabling location services will help protect this data and limit its use.
Location services aren’t all bad, of course. They can provide helpful features like finding nearby businesses, restaurants, gas stations, ATMs, etc., but disabling some settings is an excellent way to reduce unwanted exposure.
Apps collect much personal information, including your name, address, birth date, gender, contact list, device ID, and even financial details. Apps that ask permission to access these types of information must clearly explain what they intend to do with it. Don’t install an app until you understand precisely what it does and what kind of permissions it needs. If you realize you can’t trust an app, uninstall it immediately. However, if it’s an essential app, like Google Maps, don’t delete it entirely — disable access to specific features.
Smartphones are handy tools, but they are also highly vulnerable to attack. By following these simple steps, you can reduce the risk of being hacked.
Duncan is a technology professional with over 20 years experience of working in various IT roles. He has a interest in cyber security, and has a wide range of other skills in radio, electronics and telecommunications.