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The rapidly changing technology and portability of mobile devices have forced people to heavily rely on those products. With their increased functionalities, mobile devices carry out a number of our day-to-day activities, such as surfing the web, booking appointments, setting up reminders, sharing files, instant messaging, video calling, and even mobile banking.

Given all these functionalities, mobile devices are vulnerable to online threats and are also susceptible to physical attacks due to their portability. Some of the security threats include malware specifically designed for mobile devices i.e. worms and spyware, unauthorized access, phishing, and theft.

But not all is lost. Here are some practical steps that will help you minimize the exposure of your mobile device to digital threats.

1. Use strong passwords/biometrics

Strong passwords coupled with biometric features, such as fingerprint authenticators, make unauthorized access nearly impossible. Your passwords should be eight or more characters long and contain alphanumeric characters. If your mobile device allows two-factor authentication, don’t hesitate to use it. You don’t want to be subject to unforeseen attacks.

The complexities of your passwords in other apps might tempt you to store them in a similar way a browser does – that is, using the ‘remember me feature.’ This feature should be avoided at all costs since it only increases the chances of your password getting spoofed. Alternatively, if you lose your device, another person might gain full access to it.

Furthermore, don’t forget to change your password from time to time (at least every three months).

2. Ensure public or free Wi-Fi is protected

Everybody loves free Wi-Fi, especially when the data plan is inexpensive. But cheap can turn expensive in a very devastating manner. That’s because most of the free Wi-Fi points are not encrypted. These open networks allow malicious people to eavesdrop on the network traffic and easily get your passwords, usernames and other sensitive information. That threat isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, either. According to eVoice Australia, a premier provider of virtual telecommunications solutions, Wi-Fi hacking will constitute a growing risk for many in 2017.

To protect against Wi-Fi hacking, use applications that secure your connection or at least tell you the status of the Wi-Fi to which you are connected. WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) is more secure compared to WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy).

As a matter of being cautious, you should also turn off wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) when you are not using them. Not only will this help avoid automatic connection to unencrypted networks but also save your battery.

3. Utilize VPN

If you’re not sure about the security status of the network to which you’re connected, using VPN (Virtual Private Network) client is mandatory. A VPN will enable you to connect to a network securely. At the same time, any browsing activity you do on the public Wi-Fi will be shielded from prying eyes.

It is also useful when accessing sites that are less secure. Non-HTTPS sites are visible to anyone who knows how to use networking and vulnerability tools. These sites are prone to MITM (Man-in-the-middle) attacks, which pave a way to eavesdropping and password sniffing. You really need to have a new mindset when it comes to fighting cybercrime.

4. Encrypt your device

Most mobile devices are bundled with a built-in encryption feature. Encryption is the process of making data unreadable. Decryption is converting the unreadable data into normal data. This is important in case of theft, and it prevents unauthorized access. You simply need to locate this feature on your mobile device and enter a password to encrypt your device.

This process may take time depending on the size of your data. The bigger the data, the more time it will take. Most importantly, you need to remember the encryption password because it’s required every time you want to use your mobile device.

Also, as a fail-safe, consider backing up your data since some mobile devices will automatically erase everything if the wrong encryption password is entered incorrectly after a number of times.

5. Install an Antivirus application

The files you download and the apps you install on your mobile device might be packed with malicious code. Once launched, this code could send your data to hackers, thereby making you unsecured and robbing you of your privacy. To avoid that, installing a reputable antivirus application will guarantee your security.

Some antivirus applications also offer more functionalities, such as erasing your data if you lose your mobile device, tracking and blocking unknown callers who might be a threat, and telling you which applications are not safe.

In addition, they offer to clear your browsing history and delete cookies. Cookies are small software tokens that store your login information that might be leaked if someone malicious gets to them.

6. Update to the latest software

Your mobile device firmware might also be vulnerable to security threats. New loopholes might be exploited leaving your device open to threats, to avoid that, always update your firmware/device. Major mobile device firmware companies, such as Google Android and Apples iOS, roll out new updates from time to time. Most of those updates act as a security patch to known vulnerabilities on your device. You might set up updates to be manual or automatic.

Other things to consider

  • Avoid turning on autofill – Some websites and applications will automatically fill in your username when you visit them. This is due to the autofill feature. Turn it off as soon as possible.
  • Log out – After using mobile applications, especially those that are linked to one another, such as google applications, ensure that you log off each time you are done using them.
  • Use only trusted stores – You should download apps from secure stores, such as Apple’s App Store. This depends on the platform your mobile device uses.

Making your mobile device secure is not an easy task, but it should be your first priority. As there are new vulnerabilities found every day, it’s important to make sure that you are aware of any suspicious activity that occurs on your device.

How are you securing your mobile device? Have you used any of the tips above?

 

Katrina ManningAbout the Author: Katrina Manning is a professional writer, editor and author. She’s one of the pioneer content marketers for Buildnichelinks, a quality link building company in Texas. Katrina has written thousands of business and tech articles under her name and as a ghostwriter.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.