Smartphones—they’re everywhere! People may forget their house keys or wallet, but they’ll never leave their smartphone behind. It’s a fact of life today. Just last weekend, me and my wife went out for breakfast and sitting in the next booth was a couple, probably in their 50s or early 60s. They weren’t talking. Instead, each had their head buried in their smartphone.
What’s going on with the older generation? Hey…isn’t that what we older people say about the kids?
Being in the technology business, I had to wonder if this older couple takes precautions to safeguard their privacy. Do they even know they should be careful?
And, what about the younger generation? Sure, they know how to use technology, that’s a given. But, we’ve mainly become a society of technology users, while having no idea what these apps are actually doing.
Remember: those that write the programs that control our devices have the real power—unfortunately, some of them are criminals.
The top 10 things everyone should do when using their smartphone
- Use a password. Today’s smartphones allow you to either enter a PIN or swipe pattern. Personally, I think a PIN is more secure. The longer the PIN the better. For instance, a 6-character PIN has one million different combinations versus 10,000 for four characters.
- Set the screen timeout lock to the shortest possible time. It wouldn’t make sense to password-protect your phone and not set your screen to lock after a period of inactivity. Setting the lock for less than 1 minute should suffice for most people.
- Install anti-virus software. Most people don’t realize that smartphones are mini-computers and need to be protected in the same way as PCs. Most wouldn’t dream of operating a PC without AV protection, so why would you do it with your phone?
- Don’t use third party sites to download apps. Download your apps from either Google Play or Apple’s App Store. If you use third party sites—you’re asking for trouble.
- Be conscious of the permissions you’re granting apps. Does it really make sense for your flashlight app to need access to your contact list and GPS location? Think twice before downloading apps that ask for permissions well beyond what they need to operate. Download Clueful from Bitdefender; it will go through your apps and reveal the permissions each has. Get rid of those that put your data at risk.
- Keep systems up-to-date. Like I said before, your smartphone is a mini-computer and like all computers you must keep the operating system patched and updated. Vendors issue patches and updates to close security holes that have been discovered in their software—a vital component to overall security.
- Encrypt your phone. Androids and iPhones both offer encryption as part of their built-in security. Even though you may protect your phone with a password, a thief can hook it up to a computer and in affect turn it into a USB drive, exposing all of your files. Encryption takes care of this by making data unreadable without a password.
- Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity when not in use. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are wonderful technologies but can be used by thieves to remotely access your phone. Also, don’t ever use unknown Wi-Fi connections. They could be a setup by thieves to steal your information.
- Enable Remote Tracking and Wiping. There are technologies for iPhone and Android systems that will locate lost or stolen phones and remotely wipe them if necessary. Use them!
- Completely wipe old phones before getting rid of them. Merely deleting files is not good enough. For Android phones, you should encrypt your phone first then perform a Factory Reset. Apple has a Factory Reset procedure that will completely wipe the device.
So, there you have it. A list of 10 important actions every user should take to keep them safe when using their smartphone. Will everyone do them? Sadly, no and that’s why many will have their personal and/or company data compromised, identities stolen, or suffer financial loss.
Taking the above steps can’t guarantee that your security will never be compromised, but they will at least make it hard for criminals to do so. After all, thieves usually go after the “low hanging fruit” first.
Learn to protect yourself and don’t become a victim.
Joseph Imperato Sr. is the Managing Partner for XSolutions Consulting Services, a Managed Services Provider (MSP) delivering Computer Support, Business Continuity, Cloud Services, and IT Consulting to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut businesses. Call us at (845) 362-9675 and see how we can help your company.