In today’s world, your mobile phone plays a vital role in everyday life. It is a networked computer and data storage device in the palm of your hand. It is a navigational tool that helps to keep you safe and on time when you are on the road. It is the background soundtrack to our lives and a social connection tool to keep us in touch with others. It is a historian, recording sound, images and video that captures our most important, or just everyday moments. Importantly, it is also a mobile monetary transaction device and the master key to unlock access to your personal information, passwords and your bank accounts. Keeping your mobile device secure is much more than just protecting an expensive piece of technology. It is critically important to preventing fraud. In this brief article we will review the four basic tenants of mobile phone security, what you need to know to protect your device and yourself, and what to do if your personal information has been compromised or you find you are a victim of identity theft.
Although new attacks regularly come to the attention of cybersecurity experts, these are the most common types that you can watch for and protect yourself against.
1. Web-Browsing Malware & Phishing Attempts
Most mobile phone users find themselves browsing websites daily; however, this simple activity could lead to a compromise of the security of your mobile device and a loss of your personal information or worse. Websites can download malware onto your mobile device without your permission or awareness. Plus, these websites may entice you to click on links which can download malware onto your device. For example, a hacker might set up a website that looks legitimate (like a banking site) to capture login credentials. What can we do about web-browsing mobile threats? Make sure your mobile phone has the latest version of software designed to detect malicious websites and phishing attempts.
2. Malicious Mobile Apps
Hackers create malicious apps that you may innocently download or even buy. Once installed, these apps can steal your data from your devices or spend your money with your tap and pay apps. Make sure you check charges and purchases carefully. Keeping mobile software up to date also helps defend against malicious apps, as device makers periodically update their software to patch vulnerabilities that these apps exploit. The goal is to protect the information stored or accessible through the device (including your personal information, social accounts, documents, credentials, etc.).
These malicious actors sometimes hide inside well-known and valuable free apps that exploit vulnerabilities or take advantage of specific permissions to download the malicious aspect into the phone. So it’s essential that when an app asks for these permissions, its use is justified.
3. Network Vulnerabilities
Mobile devices are usually connected to at least two networks. and sometimes more. These include your cellular connection, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Each of these points of connection can be exploited by hackers to take over a device, trick the user, or penetrate a corporate network.
Make sure security settings are configured to prevent unauthorized WiFi access. Protect your network with a very strong password. Be very careful when using a free WiFi network, such as the airport, hotel, or coffee shop. Always assume that these networks may not be secure and therefore subject to sniffers that can syphon off information. Therefore, you should refrain from accessing important accounts with passwords or completing forms that ask for personal information when using a network you are not confident is secure. You shouild also turn off WiFi and Bluetooth when not in use to make sure that you don’t automatically connect to a network that is not secure.
4. Device Theft
Mobile phones are carried everywhere and they are small and easy to steal. Once a criminal has your phone, it could be money in their pocket. If you don’t have adequate security on your device at the time it is stolen, it is too late. You may have just handed over a treasure trove of personal information and access to your accounts with no way to stop the damage. However, in our list below we have outlined some easy steps that you can take NOW to make sure that you don’t regret it later. Don’t delay. Tomorrow could be too late.
Checklist for Mobile Phone Security
There are many things you can do right now to protect your mobile devices and yourself. How many can you say you have in place or safety practices that you use regularly?
PROTECT YOUR DEVICE:
- Always require the use of a password, fingerprint, or facial recognition to unlock your phone. All devices today come equipped with the ability to lock your phone when not in use. Make sure that this safety feature is active on your devices. The settings should cause your screen to lock after only a short time, preferably less than a minute.
- Don’t leave your mobile device alone. This is particularly important if you work at a busy office. If you are not taking your mobile phone with you, lock it in a drawer or cabinet where it cannot be accessed. When you go out don’t leave your phone laying on a table or bar, or another location where it may be accessed by others without you noticing. It only take a split second of distraction for someone to walk away with your device.
- Don’t leave your mobile device in a car. This is the number one way that mobile phones are stolen, plus you may end up paying for a smashed window as well. If you need to leave your phone in the car for some reason make sure that it is completely out of sight.
- Don’t hand your phone to anyone you don’t know and trust. If a stranger says asks to borrow your phone for an emergency phone call, ask them for the number, dial it yourself and put your phone on speaker, keeping it always in your hand. If a technician at your local cellular phone store asks you to unlock your phone so they can transfer data to your new device, ask them to remain in front of you while these actions are performed (instead of taking your unlocked phone into a back room).
- Keep your phone up to date with the latest software, patches, and updates. Set your devices to download and install updates automatically. These often address new potential security issues as they are discovered.
- Back up all of your data, photos, and videos to a cloud-based service. If your device is lost or stolen, then these valuable, and sometimes irreplaceable treasures are still in safe hands, and can be downloaded to your new device.
- Purchase or activate your phones device location (“find me”) feature. This feature should include an option to lock your phone remotely and wipe all of the saved data. If you have taken the previous step to backup all of your data to a cloud service, then wiping your phone is an easy decision if your device is lost or stolen.
- Review financial account statements for unusual activity regularly. Contact us if you see anything that seems suspicious on any of your accounts.
What to Do if You Think You Are a Victim of Identity Theft
We are here for you. If you feel that your identity has been compromised, call us immediately to speak to one of our Identity Theft Recovery Advocates. Quickly recognizing and addressing the issue will minimize damage to your accounts and your identity. With HomeFREE Checking, you have access to specialists who can answer your questions, address your concerns, and help you get back on track as quickly as possible.