Think of it this way: Your smartphone is almost always on, connected to the Internet, logged into your email and social media, and likely has at least a username stored for your bank account. Your smartphone contains as much sensitive information as your wallet does — more, if you count the contact information for your family and friends.
Because smartphones can access the Internet, which puts them at risk for a variety of malware and compromising exploits, but malware can come via almost any phone function. Text messages are easily exploitable, especially since an average text-messaging app takes no security precautions. They open automatically and load as soon as your phone connects to a network; in effect, they can’t be blocked. So some researchers say that smartphone is probably a much more tempting target for cybercriminals than your desktop computer, and unless you take proper precautions, it’s easier to hack as well.
Here are a few basic tips:
· Set a passcode. Did you know that only 44% of people set a passcode on their phone? It’s the first line of defense of someone accessing your personal data.
· Question why a link asks you to download something: Be careful of links from email, text message and social networking sites that ask you to download or install something. As a rule of thumb, the more urgent the messages appear, the more likely it is that they are fraudulent.
· Be suspicious of strange or unlikely emails: Avoid clicking on links in email messages if it’s hard to determine who the sender is and what their intentions are. Even if you receive an email from someone you know, if it seems out of place, it probably is. Emails can easily be “spoofed” to make it look like it came from a friend, but really it’s not.
· Use discretion when downloading apps: Only download apps from trusted sources, like the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Malicious applications can contain spying capabilities, like taking pictures or reading SMS messaging. To ensure that you can’t install apps from places outside of Google Play, make sure the “unknown sources” settings in the security setting on your Android device is unchecked.
· Protect your phone like you protect your PC: Most people already use software to shield their PC from viruses and spyware. With so much personal data on our phones and mobile malware on the rise, our mobile devices now need the same attention. Protect yourself and your private data from malware, spyware and malicious apps by downloading a security app like Lookout Mobile Security.
· Check for suspicious activity: Regularly check your phone bill for unwarranted SMS or phone call charges.
· Keep your apps and device software up to date: Hackers work diligently to discover new vulnerabilities in our apps or the software that operates our phones. Device manufacturers and app developers frequently update their software to fix newly exploited security gaps, but if you don’t download and install these updates your information is still at risk.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a BlackBerry Z10 smartphone, as it was revealed this week that the NSA had been listening in on her telephone conversations.