14 Tips For Secure Smartphone Use

Although it has been on the market for only a few years, the smartphone has become ubiquitous.  We use it to talk, text, surf the web, bank, shop, listen to music, view videos, take photos, record video and audio, and conduct business.  These devices aren’t even phones but rather hand-held computers that offer a voice communication function.  Just as your laptop or desktop computer can be hacked or invaded by malware and viruses, so can your smartphone.  A computer is a computer.

Because smartphones are so much a part of our everyday lives, it is easy to become complacent about security when using one.  After all, we didn’t have to worry much about security issues when using a cell phone.  But smartphones aren’t cell phones; they are computers.  Smartphone users need to take certain security precautions to protect themselves and their data.  Data theft can lead to identity theft which can result in financial loss.  Think of securing your smartphone as another means of protecting your finances.

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Smartphone security tips

Here are 14 tips for secure smartphone use:

  1. Protect your smartphone against loss or theft.  Don’t set your smartphone down on a bar, a table, a desk, or leave it on the seat of your car, or carry it in a open purse or in a pocket where it is visible and can be easily taken.
  2. Enable the screen lock feature and password protect your phone.  Set the screen to lock after a short period of inactivity.  Require a password to unlock the unit.  This prevents unauthorized persons from using your smartphone if they find it or steal it.
  3. Enable the remote location and remote wipe functions or install an app that will perform these functions.  If your smartphone is lost or stolen, you can remotely wipe it clean of data, keeping your personal information out of the wrong hands, and possibly retrieve it with these functions.
  4. Frequently back up or sync your data.  The data on your smartphone is your life.  If your smartphone is damaged, lost, or stolen, you could lose your data.  Make sure you back up or sync frequently so, if the unthinkable happens, you lose as little data as possible.
  5. Avoid wi-fi hotspots and only connect your smartphone to those networks you trust.  Public wi-fi hotspots offer no security.  Fake wireless networks are sometimes created in public places so thieves can steal smartphone data.
  6. Keep your smartphone’s operating software updated.  Software updates often include security patches to protect against known vulnerabilities.  Failure to update your smartphone’s software could leave it open to attack by hackers.
  7. Activate or install anti-virus and anti-malware apps on your smartphone and keep them updated.  These apps scan your smartphone for malicious programs.
  8. Don’t store passwords on your phone.  It is convenient to have passwords associated with the programs you frequently use stored on your smartphone so you don’t have to enter them each time you want to access an application, but don’t do it.  Just say no when asked to have the smartphone remember a password.  Don’t make it easy for an unauthorized person to access your applications should your smartphone be lost or stolen.
  9. Use caution when selecting apps to download.  Apps can contain malicious software that is designed to steal your personal data.  Make sure you can trust an application before you download it:  Does it come from a trusted source?  Has it been evaluated and reviewed by a trusted source?
  10. Do not respond to or click on links in a text message sent by an unknown.  Text message spam is just as dangerous as email spam.  Responding to or following links  contained in a text message from an unknown sender can download malicious software onto your smartphone or run up charges with your carrier.
  11. Do not “jail-break” your smartphone.  Altering your smartphone’s operating system to accept alien applications makes your system vulnerable to hackers.
  12. Turn off Bluetooth discovery mode when not paired with a device.  Bluetooth discovery mode makes your smartphone visible to those in close proximity and may allow them to access it.
  13. For personal safety and privacy, turn off geo-tagging of photos and/or auto-uploads of photos to social networking sites.  These functions allow persons with access to your social networking sites to track your movements in real time.  Protect yourself by turning off these functions.
  14. For personal safety and privacy, avoid social networking location “check-ins”.  You never know who is monitoring your social networking sites, so don’t let someone who may have a malicious intent know of your whereabouts.

If you don’t know how to turn off certain features on your smartphone or how to enable others, contact you smartphone customer service representative or visit your smartphone provider’s website.  Perform Google searches to discover and review security apps for your smartphone.

As a smartphone user, you are a target for those with a criminal intent to steal your data and profit from it.  Take the precautions listed above and be alert for suspicious activity when using your smartphone.  Protect the data on your smartphone as you would protect the personal information, credit cards, and cash you carry in your purse or wallet.

K.C. Knouse is the author of True Prosperity: Your Guide to a Cash-Based LifestyleDouble-Dome Publications, 224 pages

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