5 steps to secure your mobile device
Submitted by Joseph Tesoro, Education Awareness Specialist, IMITS Security
Mobile devices play such an integral role in our lives. Rarely do we go anywhere without having a smartphone, tablet, or laptop with us. And this makes sense since we use these devices for a variety of reasons ranging from chatting with friends to banking and shopping. So, whether you’re at home, work, or on the road, here are 5 simple steps to keep your mobile devices safe and secure.
5 simple steps to keep your devices safe and secure
1. Enable screen locking via biometrics or passwords
Did you know that it’s much more likely that you will lose or forget your device than having someone hack into it? The number one way to protect your device is to enable the automatic screen locking feature, often called a screen lock. Consider using biometrics (such as your fingerprint or facial recognition) or a password that is at least 8 characters long using a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters to protect your data. These options are even more secure than the usual 4-6 digit PIN passcode. This helps to prevent others from accessing your device if it is lost or stolen.
2. Keep the device and apps up to date with the latest security fixes (patches) and upgrades
Set your device to automatically update to the latest versions of the operating system and applications. Cybercriminals are always looking for new weaknesses in software, and companies such as Microsoft, Samsung, and Apple are constantly releasing updates and new patches to address these weaknesses. By always using the latest operating system and application versions, you make it much harder for hackers to access your device.
3. Be wary of free apps from unknown sources or those with limited/bad reviews
You may have heard the saying, “there’s an app for that.” In fact, there are thousands of free and paid apps you can download onto your mobile device. However, these apps are not all created equal. Those available for download from third-party websites are not verified as safe and are far more likely to contain malware. Therefore, it is best to only download apps from trusted sources such as the App Store (available on iPads and iPhones), Google Play (available on Android devices), or the Amazon Appstore (available on Amazon tablets). For added security, make sure the app contains positive reviews and is being actively updated by its creators.
4. Enable the “wipe” feature
“Remote wiping” is a security feature that allows you to remotely erase the data on your device in the event it gets lost or stolen. Most new devices have this feature, which gives the device owner the ease of just turning it on. It’s also a good idea to regularly back up the data on your device to a secure location that is password-protected and/or encrypted. That way, if the physical device gets lost, your data will still be available elsewhere!
5. Install reputable antivirus software from the mobile app store
Laptops aren’t the only devices that should have antivirus software installed. Tablets and cellphones are essentially small computers in your pocket and thus are vulnerable to malware if necessary precautions aren’t taken. Malware can track your device without your knowledge; download and install apps without your consent; send your personal information and data to a remote location and/or give complete control of your device to a cybercriminal. Therefore, installing reputable antivirus software from a trusted source (refer to step #3) allows you to scan your phone for malicious apps and files and alert you if there are any. Some antivirus software also warns if you visit unsafe websites, where the chances of picking up malware are much higher.
Key things to do if your mobile device is compromised
If you think your mobile device has been compromised, immediately:
- Run mobile antivirus software (from a trusted source).
- Remove any apps you do not recognize.
- If possible, wipe the device, restore factory settings, and reinstall required apps from trusted sources.
As more and more personal and business data become accessible through mobile devices, it’s important that we take the necessary steps to keep them safe and secure from cybercriminals.
To learn more about mobile device security, check out our video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuFZqVpyC20, and join us at the next mobile security lunch and learn held at 1795 Willingdon Avenue Room 304 12-1pm on Friday, January 31st, 2020. Email IMITSSecurity@phsa.ca to register for this event.
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