Mobile phones have become the new prey of choice for hackers and other nefarious individuals. Once compromised, our phones offer easy access to our personal and financial information, giving hackers the ability to sell that information on the dark web and to ransom our information.
But despite the growing threats to our smartphones, most people — even most corporate executives — still don’t take basic security precautions. According to a 2016 report on mobile security by Intertrust, the cost of mobile app hacks and breaches will reach $1.5 billion by 2021. What can you do to protect yourself and your mobile device? Here are 15 simple steps that will make you a harder target:
1. Immediately change factory passwords on your phone. Avoid using 0000, 1234, your birthday or similar easy-to-guess codes, and avoid settings for autologin or saving passwords. Change your voicemail password from time to time, too.
2. Keep your operating system up-to-date and back up your phone regularly. Install app and system updates as soon as they are available, because these updates may be fixing a bug or security issue.
3. Use a dedicated email address for authentication and pin number resets. This email address should be different from your personal day-to-day email address, which may be widely known.
4. Be cautious about installing apps from unknown sources, especially free versions of popular apps.
5. Only download apps from the App Store, Google Play or other official sources, as they constantly screen and remove suspicious apps.
6. Do not access sensitive information (your bank account, for example) while using unsecure public Wi-Fi.
7. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to create a more secure channel between your smartphone and the internet.
8. Set your phone’s lock-screen feature to engage quickly when the phone is not in use.
9. Set your phone to autoerase if too many incorrect logins are attempted (and make sure to back up your phone regularly).
10. Turn off your phone’s Bluetooth feature when not in use.
11. Enable the “Find my phone” feature so that you can quickly locate it if it’s lost or stolen.
12. Consider installing security software on your phone — but only approved and well-known software.
13. Try not to keep personal information on your phone for too long. Keep your phone as “clean” as possible by moving photos and documents and photos from it to a more secure device.
14. Turn off your devices when not in use (do not just hibernate them), especially when traveling.
15. Install privacy screens for your devices. (These are tinted screen protectors that prevent bystanders from seeing what’s on your screen.)