security tips for your cell phone and mobile device

Most people can’t live without their cellphone. So much of their lives are on their phones, from the names and contact information of their coworkers, friends, and relatives, to personal text messages and photos. It’s no wonder you wouldn’t want this information falling into the wrong hands. Here are a few things you can do to keep your cell phone secure and how to secure your phone from hackers.

Wifi

A lot of people connect to WiFi to save data, but often, public WiFi networks – that are open for anyone to use – are not usually secure. Unfortunately, other users on the network can see anything you send that is not encrypted, and they can even hijack your online session and log into websites using your identity. Don’t connect to public wifi if you don’t need to, and be sure you disable your phone’s ability to auto-connect to these hotspots. If you do connect, definitely don’t access sensitive information such as your bank account.

Bluetooth

Similarly, disable your phone’s automatic Bluetooth pairing and turn off Bluetooth when it isn’t being used – meaning you shouldn’t leave it in discoverable mode. You might be surprised by how far a Bluetooth signal can travel (Bluetooth 5.0 can travel up to 800 feet or 240 meters), and while it’s great for pairing headphones and wireless devices, don’t use it to transfer sensitive materials like passwords or financial documents.

Mobile Apps

Apps let you do almost anything on your phone: shop, play games, share on social media, do work and more. Because of their ubiquity, attackers will often hide malicious tools within apps. Only download apps from your phone’s official app store, and never download apps from the web. Beware of apps that don’t list the developer or have no, or few reviews – especially those with negative reviews. Just like your phone needs regular security updates to patch weaknesses and vulnerabilities, apps need to be updated as well. To avoid app attacks, keep them updated and delete apps that are no longer supported (and while you’re at it, check out these seven surprising things that need security updates). Finally, watch out for apps that ask for access to your personal information or ask for unnecessary privileges. For example, there’s no need for a flashlight app to access your address book, location, camera, or microphone.

Even if you use legitimate apps, beware of how criminals are using these apps in their scams and other fraud. For example, romance scams are a common occurrence on dating and social media apps.  Criminals are also using QR codes you scan with your phone to commit crimes and other forms of online deception.

Mobile Web Browser

Just like on your computer, attackers will try to get you to download viruses or ransomware to your phone. Watch out for giveaways and contests that seem too good to be true, because they’ll often take you to a malicious website. Be sure to look closely at the URL of a webpage – which is probably more difficult on your phone – but beware if it looks suspicious. Finally, it’s better to use a password manager than it is to save your passwords in the web browser of your phone. Avoid saving your login information in your phone’s browser.

Phishing and SMishing

Hopefully you’ve heard of phishing, where someone sends you an email and tries to trick you into downloading something – like an email attachment – clicking a link, or taking some other action and you know how to quickly spot phishing tricks. Unfortunately, you’ll still get phishing emails on your phone, but there are other types of phishing you need to watch out for – especially on your cell phone. SMishing is short for SMS phishing, or text message phishing. Never trust messages from someone you don’t know – especially those that include a link – and never give out personal information. Using short messages is just another way criminals try to trick you. Not only do they use text messages, but if you may get a message in Facebook messenger, Instagram, or another app if you are oversharing on social media. Just ignore and delete these messages the same way you would with other types of phishing.

Vishing

People mostly know to watch out for phishing messages, so criminals have turned to calling victims. We call voice phishing, Vishing, and just like any other type of phishing the criminal is trying to trick you… So beware of anyone asking for financial information. If they claim to be from your bank or credit card company, call the company back via the numbers listed on your card or your statement. Many phone companies now offer free phone security apps you can install on your phone to warn you of spammers and scammers.

As people increasingly spend time on their phones instead of computers, criminals are changing their tactics to target these devices. Watch out for these tactics, as well as some of the other top scams used by criminals. Share this information with friends and relatives to help them secure their cell phones to avoid becoming a victim.

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