Quite recently, one of my friends complained that he had to use a mobile app to transfer money. Supposedly, it felt very unsafe. I had to prove my point that mobile money transfers can be a lot safer than desktop transactions. Nevertheless, just because most of us a more used to desktop infections, hackers have their ways to access mobile devices, too. With the share of mobile device users constantly growing, it would be odd if cyber criminals did not try to make use of that. Hence, to reassure my friend and many other people like him, here comes a list of things you can do to protect your smartphone from hackers.
For the most part, this feature should be turned on automatically, but quite a few users choose to turn automatic updates off for various reasons. Perhaps they prefer using a particular version of an app; perhaps they do not like the newest edition, perhaps constant updates annoy them, and so on and so forth. However, just like with desktop computers, smartphone security rely A LOT on regular updates. Along with the new interface that you may not like, app developers also offer new features and patches that fix potential app vulnerabilities.
Another thing we would like to point out is that sometimes there are certain built-in apps you want to get rid of, but the only way to delete them is to “root” your phone. If you hate some app a lot, you might be willing to resort to such measures, but unless you are a professional technician, we would strongly discourage you to go with it. The problem is that once your device is rooted, almost all apps gain administrator rights and permissions, thus allowing them to perform a lot more actions on your device. So if you have some fake malicious app added to your smartphone, you might experience something nasty.
As far as Android smartphones are concerned, it is rather easy to install new apps on them, especially as the Android app-verifying process is not as rigid as that of Apple’s. So there is always news about fake apps available at Google’s Play Store, and it takes quite a while for Google to take them down if no one reports the malicious apps.
On the other hand, you can take certain precaution measures when you install new apps yourself. For instance, make sure you install an app developed by reliable companies. Also, right before you click Install, you get a pop-up that informs you about the permissions you need to give this particular app. It is only natural to ask for these permissions, but when some simple application (like photo editor, for example), asks for your contact details, it might be the first sign of potential hack attempt. So you should always be attentive to avoid it.
Log-in Features & Wi-Fi
Aside from being careful when you install new apps, you should also consider turning off auto log-in features. Of course, it is very convenient, when you no longer need to type in your password every single time you access your accounts via various apps, but this feature is a great liability. It is especially important if you tend to use the same password across several different services and apps. If you do not like making hard passwords, at least have three or four versions and keep on rotating them across your apps. Using the same password for all of your accounts would only make it easier for hackers to get a hold of your multiple accounts.
What’s more, even if you do enter your passwords every time you log in somewhere, you should also be careful about your connection status when you do that. This allows me to point back to the first paragraph and my friend who felt uneasy using mobile banking app. In fact, using public Wi-Fi connection for such transactions might be risky because unprotected Wi-Fi networks could be exploited by cyber criminals, too. It is relatively safer to perform mobile banking operations using your mobile data or protected Wi-Fi connection (the one that has a password).
Since we are mostly dealing with Android smartphones here, we should also point out this feature that adds up to the overall security level of your device. Google Authenticator implements two-step verification, and it is used for all mobile applications. Aside from your login and password, with Google Authenticator, you would also have to use a one-time password to log into Google services.
The one-time password is sent as a text message to your phone, so if someone is trying to hack into your account, they will not be able to access the service without the code (which you will receive to your phone). At the same time, if you use the Authenticator service and you receive a one-time password even when you do not try to sign in anywhere, it is perhaps the first sign that it is about time to change your passwords because someone is obviously trying to hack you.
For the final tip, we would like to divert your attention to your Bluetooth settings. The ways users employ different mobile services are obviously different. One of our colleagues does not even keep the GPS feature on, let alone the Bluetooth service. However, some users tend to keep the Bluetooth feature on all the time.
This could also be risky because if your device is set as visible, your smartphone could be targeted and accessed by hackers a lot easier. Thus, computer security experts suggest setting your device to “Non-discoverable” via the Bluetooth settings. And also, it would be a good idea to keep the feature turned off when you do not use it.
The few things we have summed up above are just the general tips that should be applied by everyone in order to increase their smartphone security. However, there might be specific individual tips applicable from device to device, and you should always make it a point to check out security tips given by the device developer. Finally, being careful about the information you enter and the apps you use is the most important thing when it comes to smartphone security.
- Avani Bagga. 10 ways to protect your Android smartphone from hackers. Gadgets Now.
- Trace Margidian-Kiles. How to Prevent Phone Hacking and Sleep Like a Baby Again. Webroot.
- Darien Graham-Smith. 12 ways to hack-proof your smartphone. The Guardian.
- Samsung. How to Keep a Smartphone From Being Hacked. Techlife Samsung.