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Mobile Phone Security

These days, cell phones do just about everything. They can make phone calls and send text messages, surf the web, play music and take pictures. As more features are added to them, they take on a bigger part of our everyday life. You may not think of a cell phone as a computer, but that’s exactly what it is. It has a processor, memory and a hard drive. It can even get viruses and malware.

You may have considered cybersecurity protection for your computer, but have you considered it for your cell phone? In 2018, nearly 60% of all internet traffic came from mobile devices. We use our cell phones and other wireless devices increasingly for all sorts of activities. Protecting them also protects your sensitive data.

Use mobile antivirus software.
All major antivirus companies also make antivirus software for mobile devices. If you already have antivirus for your home computer, you may be able to add or get antivirus for your phone or tablet on the same subscription plan. Be wary of antivirus programs from vendors you aren’t familiar with; it could be malware disguised as helpful software.

Update your phone’s operating system regularly.
Just like your computer operating system, your phone may prompt you from time to time to do updates. These updates are very important; some will add new features and services to your device, and others will update the device’s security software. If your phone or tablet prompts you to update at a bad time, you can usually set it to do the updates and restart over night or during a better time. It is important to do these updates in a timely manner because the vulnerabilities being patching may be under active exploit.

Lock your phone.
Set up your phone to lock after a short period of inactivity. Use a long PIN, passphrase, fingerprint or other security measure to unlock your phone. This will ensure that if you lose your phone or it gets stolen that someone will be unable to access your information. You can also set up your phone to wipe itself (meaning, delete all of the information on it) after a few failed attempts. If your phone has lots of sensitive information, consider enabling the option to manually remote wipe your phone in the event that it goes missing, as well.

Back up your files.
Many mobile carriers offer backup or cloud services for your phone that can save your contacts, information, pictures and other files. In the case that your phone is lost, stolen, destroyed or compromised, these backup files can offer a recovery point. If you elect not to use your carrier’s services, you can backup files on a microSD card or use another backup software.

Only download from trusted sources.
Major cell phone companies have their own app stores that provide trusted sources to get software. Using third-party app stores or downloading apps directly from untrustworthy sites can give you mobile malware. Even when downloading from trusted app stores, be sure that you know the company that made the app. Beware of apps promising you free software that might be too good to be true; they may try to sneak malicious software onto your device. Read reviews from users who have used the app before to gauge if it works as intended or if it caused any problems.

Be careful with public Wi-Fi.
The rates for data plans can make using free Wi-Fi an attractive option, but be careful when connecting to an unsecured network. It is currently much safer to use your device’s data connection than to connect to a public Wi-Fi network. If you do need to connect to a public Wi-Fi network, don’t send any sensitive information (such as banking or payment information) over it. If you are in constant need of an internet connection and may need to connect to Wi-Fi for work or other reasons, consider getting a Virtual Private Network (VPN) license. These will allow you to send and receive information on an encrypted connection, meaning no one will be able to decipher the data being transmitted.

It is not advisable to jailbreak or root your phone.
Jailbreaking your iPhone or rooting your Android device is the act of installing software that bypasses many of the security features of the device and allows for more customization options. While this may seem like an interesting alternative way to use a device, it can also open your device up to malware attacks that it would be otherwise protected against. It may also void any warranty or support for the device from the manufacturer.