How secure is the data on your smartphone, smart watch or tablet? It’s true that unlike major celebrities, getting my phone hacked probably won’t make any news headlines, and my private pix won’t be splashed all over the Internet. But even without major press scandals, a phone hack can be a huge invasion of privacy—and incredibly costly.
With everything we do, why worry about a phone or tablet getting hacked? Well, for one—everyone seems to have no problem storing sensitive data on their mobile devices. According to Pew Research, 64% of Americans have an online account involving health, financial or other sensitive data. And over half of Internet users utilize public Wi-Fi networks, for tasks like online banking.
Okay, has your anxiousness kicked in yet? If not, this rant is for you, girl with no iPad password. And for you, guy who stays signed into Instagram on his girlfriend’s computer. And for you, dude on the metro obnoxiously blabbing loudly into your phone about that weird rash you have. These are some incredibly simple things you should be doing to keep casual intruders from invading your privacy.
Use strong passwords/passcodes/PINs.
Select a strong password or passcode to restrict access to the keypad. Change any default passwords on your mobile devices to ones that would be difficult for someone to guess. Use different passwords for different programs and devices. Do not choose options that allow your device to remember your passwords. Newer devices also offer access through a fingerprint scan, an iris scanner or facial recognition.
Keep things private.
Phone conversations can easily be overheard. Passwords, credit card numbers, and other identifiable information are best discussed in a private place.
Keep software up to date.
Install updates for apps and your device’s operating system as soon as they are available. Keep the software on your mobile device up to date —it prevents attackers from being able to take advantage of known vulnerabilities.
Disable remote connectivity.
Some mobile devices are equipped with wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth, that can connect to other devices. Disable these features when they are not in use. Be careful connecting to unencrypted hotel or other public wireless networks, sending sensitive information out on the ‘net is a well-known problem.
Be careful what you post and when.
Wait to post pictures from trips and events so that people do not know where to find you. Posting where you are also tips off that your house is empty.
Guard your mobile device.
Mobile devices are getting fancier and more popular all the time. This makes them a target for theft. In order to prevent theft and unauthorized access, never leave your mobile device unattended in a public place and lock your device when it is not in use.
Know your apps.
Be sure to review and understand the details of an app before downloading and installing it. Be aware that apps may request access to your location and personal information. Delete any apps that you do not use regularly to increase your security.
Know the available resources.
Use the Federal Communications Commission’s Smartphone Security Checker.
You may want to reduce the amount of data on your device, or clear the device of data entirely prior to reselling or recycling it. Did you know that some methods of erasing data do not truly delete the files, even though they may appear to be gone?
If your device is lost or stolen
A thief could use your wireless access, steal your identity and credit card information, or cause you to pay for a new phone and unauthorized charges on your bill. If lost or stolen you should:
Use the mobile app or your phone’s find-my-phone feature to verify whether it’s actually been stolen or is just missing.
Call or text your phone. If no one responds, then lock it remotely, but only perform a remote wipe if you’re sure you can’t get it back.
File a police report immediately.
Report the loss as soon as possible to your cellular service provider. If the device was insured, contact the insurance agent or provider.
Have the phone number or account disabled so no further charges can be applied in case the service provider is unable to lock the handset (many U.S. service providers won’t disable your phone). Thieves will more likely use your service than sell your phone, especially between the moments they steal it and before you realize it’s missing.
Resources: Privacy Policies.com, Pew Research Center, the National Cyber Security Alliance, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.