Mobile Security | Keep Your Mobile Data Safe
Cellphones and tablets make life easier — unless they fall into the wrong hands.
You wouldn't leave your wallet lying around in a public place, right? Well, you should be just as diligent with your mobile gadgets.
Best practices to help protect your mobile device
Use Passwords, Locks and More
Always password-protect your mobile device, use the auto-lock security feature, and activate the encryption feature if one exists.
Many devices can be set so that if the wrong password is entered a certain number of times in a row, the device automatically deletes all the stored information. But don't worry — you should be able to retrieve your data from your computer if you've been synchronizing the two devices.
When creating a password, choose one that's easy for you to remember but will be difficult for others to guess. And make sure your auto-lock feature is turned on so it will kick in after a couple of minutes. That helps ensure no one will be able to use the phone or tablet without knowing your password. Also, don't share your password with anyone or tape it to your mobile device.
While encryption offers some protection and may prevent unauthorized access to your mobile data, many mobile devices don't include this feature in their operating systems. Look in the owner's manual to see if your phone has encryption, and make sure the feature is included when you purchase a new phone.
To encourage the return of a lost handset, consider writing or engraving your name and contact information — but not your password — on its back with the promise of a reward. Several applications for cell phones let you offer a reward for the return of a lost phone.
Back It Up
You should store only the information you think you'll need immediate and frequent access to in your mobile device. Remember, syncing your device to Outlook or another email application may automatically synchronize any notes in your contacts database, so pay special attention to what you have in those fields. Take care not to store user names and passwords in the note fields.
Also make sure you have a separate record of the data, including all account numbers, passwords, phone numbers, addresses and any other sensitive information, as well as the device's make, model and serial number. Then, if your gadget is lost or stolen and you want to change your passwords quickly, you'll have the information you need at your fingertips.
Beware Fraudulent and Out-of-Market Apps
Downloading apps outside of trusted sources or jailbreaking your device can open up your phone to substantial corruptions, such as viruses or malware. Once harmful software is on your phone, it can be used to steal your personal information without your knowledge. Fraudulent apps are also on the rise; according to the FBI, US security research organizations reported that nearly 65,000 fake apps were detected on major app stores in 2018, making this one of the fastest growing sectors of smartphone-based fraud.
- Only download apps from official app stores for your device - do not download apps from unknown or unofficial sources.
- Review app permissions on any new app you download and current apps on your phone and consider deleting any with excessive permissions.
- Keep apps up-to-date as new updates are released.
- Use multi-factor authentication when possible and ensure you have strong usernames and passwords.
- Never jailbreak your device or use a jailbroken device
- If a banking app appears suspicious, call the bank at the phone number posted on their website.
Pay Special Attention to Your Tablet
Most tablets are thought of as overgrown cell phones that can be used for web browsing, video viewing and playing games. But tablets are just as capable as a phone — if not more so — of doing real work. They require the same amount of security foresight, yet few users even secure them with a password. Its larger size makes a tablet a more visible and natural target for would-be thieves. Because tablets are fully usable even without a cell phone plan, they are easier to resell on the black market.
While a phoneless tablet may not contain your cellular directory, remember that it will have everything else: from web bookmarks to all your apps (complete with account information). Tablets have been touted for banking, investing and online shopping. You probably have a few apps along these lines installed, yet minimally secured. Letting your tablet fall into the wrong hands can be as disastrous as losing a phone.
If your mobile devices are lost or stolen:
- Call your provider to report the theft.
- File a police report (if you know it's been stolen).
- Place fraud alerts on your credit reports.
- Notify anyone whose contact or other information is stored in the phone.
- Consider using a remote wipe capability (if available) to prevent someone accessing your personal information. This feature gives you the ability to send a command to your device that will delete your data.