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Smartphones – The Universe In Our Hand (1 of 2)

In this digital age, every smartphone user has risk exposure to cyber-attacks. Having your smartphone hacked kind of feels like someone robbed your pocket or house. It’s a massive invasion of privacy, a violation of your personal space, and it may take a while to figure out what is missing. Your smartphone does not just hold your valuables, it signals to intruders which of your valuables are the most important to you. If something is on the phone, you always have with you.

Almost all of us have saved our Personal Identifiable Information (PII), banking and finance related information stored in mobile or mobile apps. Hence, it becomes an absolute must for us to do due diligence and ensure our smartphones are not exposed to cyber-attacks.

The following simple steps help us protect our smartphone from hackers and intruders:

  1. Update the mobile Operating System – ASAP

  2. Update your mobile Apps regularly

  3. Avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi networks

  4. Lock your smartphones with strong and complex passcodes

  5. Fingerprint unlocking option is not as safe as we think

  6. Before sharing your mobile number, think twice

  7. Make sure your privacy settings are set appropriately on all social media

  8. Restrict the content on your phone

  9. Implement Multi-factor authentication

  10. Beware of spam and phishing emails

  11. Use smartphone’s built-in device protection

  12. Use an Antivirus App

  13. Set appropriate App permissions

  14. Set data back-up

  15. Install Apps only from known sources

  16. Avoid using public charging stations and ports

Let us understand each of the above aspects quickly.

1. Update the mobile Operating Systems – ASAP

Mobile manufacturing companies are consistently releasing software updates and bug fixes for their operating systems – be it Android or IOS. These contain security improvements that help guard your smartphone against data breaches and intrusions, and close off vulnerabilities, making it harder for hackers to break through. When an update is announced for your smartphone’s operating system, install it without delay.

2. Update your mobile Apps regularly

As like your operating system, there are multiple Apps installed on your mobile which are prone to hacking and attacks due to vulnerabilities existing in them. The respective App development companies release upgrades to the mobile apps to fix the identified vulnerabilities. When your phone notified you for updating your Apps, install it without delay. Of course, you can prioritise based on which Apps have your sensitive data and information.

3. Avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi networks

Everyone should know about the dangers of using open Wi-Fi for anything, because free public Wi-Fi in shopping centres, cafes, airports, or any other public venue, is open to all kinds of online mischiefs. Try to use only your mobile network’s internet connections whenever possible and switch off Wi-Fi on your mobile phone whenever you are in a public place.

If that is not possible, consider using a VPN app, a utility that tunnels network communications through an encrypted connection. But choose carefully as not all VPNs are equal in quality and security. Also disable Bluetooth (if not needed) while you are out.

4. Lock your smartphones with strong and complex passcodes:

Choose at least eight-digit passcode to unlock and enter your device. Passcodes may not be super convenient, but definitely a peace of mind dictates that if your smartphone falls out of your pocket while you are out, the first person who picks it up should not be able to get your life story from your emails, contacts, photos, and banking information. While you are at it, make sure Apps with personal information are also locked with passwords.

Use only strong passwords that are not easily cracked by hackers. They should contain a mix of letters and numbers, upper and lowercase letters and special characters. Also change your passwords preferably every six months to a year, but immediately when you hear about a data breach of any program you use.

5. Fingerprint unlocking option is not as safe as we think

Fingerprint based locking feature can get misused, so think about it carefully again before setting that as your option. It is better to avoid that and go ahead with passcodes for better security and confidentiality.

6. Before sharing your mobile number, think twice

Just like you wouldn’t give out your bank account details to anyone who asked for it, don’t automatically offer your mobile number to any App that prompts you. The more places you have your number shared, the more vulnerable you are to unsolicited calls, SMS, intrusions and scams, and even invasion of your protected 2FA accounts. Consider adding a second line to your mobile phone.

Thank you for your time. I will be back next week to talk about the remaining steps on how to protect your smartphones.

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