Hacking is no longer restricted to computers, but has moved to smartphones. Besides getting access to your private information and location, a hacker can also easily get access to your email, social media and bank accounts on your smartphone. Further, the privacy concern raised by the state sponsored spies in mainstream phones has made it more difficult for the users to keep themselves secure. A classic example of this was the government hack of an iPhone used by a San Bernardino killer.
While most people aren’t targets of the FBI, NSA or a foreign government, hackers are always on the hunt to steal financial and personal information of the common man. For instance, your email account on the smartphone, paves way for the hacker to reset your banking and other sensitive passwords.
In this article, we have compiled a list of 10 methods that you can use to keep yourselves safe from hackers and government backed attacks.
1. Keep your smartphone up to date
Always install software updates as soon as they become available on your smartphone, as these updates are known to contain fixes for flaws that might give hackers a way into your device. The same is also applicable for apps. Keep them updated to ensure that bugs and flaws are not exploited.
2. Lock your smartphone with a passcode
This method along with an accompanying self-destruct feature that might wipe a phone’s data after too many wrong guesses can help you keep your device safe if/ falls in the wrong hands. Make guessing your password difficult for others with the use of six digits passcode rather than a four-digit passcode. To make it even more difficult, use a combination of letters and other characters in your password to further increase the number of possible combinations.
3. Avoid connecting your smartphone to free or public Wi-Fi networks as much as possible
Who doesn’t love free Wi-Fi? But everything free comes with its own set of risks. Using free Wi-Fi at public places for checking your bank accounts and emails on your smartphone could be risky as it may expose your smartphone to hackers looking to get sneak in. Hence, it is important to limit your activities on your smartphone while you are using free public Wi-Fi.
4. Always keep your Bluetooth off when in public
Many of us forget to switch off the Bluetooth on our smartphone after using it. This could prove to be a culprit for hacking. So, always make sure to switch off the Bluetooth on your device when you’re not using it.
5. Be prepared to track your smartphone
It is always better to plan things in advance before any adverse situation occurs. In this case, we are talking about keeping your data safe in the event your device is stolen.
Use the “find my device” services offered by both Apple and Google that assists in locating your smartphone on a map, and remotely lock or erase it. For Apple users, this is accessed through the iCloud website – you can check it’s enabled on the phone in Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone. While there isn’t anything comparable built into Android phones, but Google’s Android Device Manager App, along with a handful of others made by third parties, can be downloaded for free from the Google Play app store.
6. Only Buy or Install Apps from First Party Vendors like Apple or Google
A third-party app from a non-secure site is likely to carry Trojans and backdoors and embedded malware or malicious software that might corrupt the operating system, while also stealing personal data. In order to stay secure, only buy or install apps from first party vendors like Apple or Google. Also, be cautious about suspicious permissions requested by apps such as those to make phone calls, connect to the Internet or disclosing of personal information to third parties.
7. Ensure online services are locked
While auto-login can be considered as a useful feature for typing password, it also makes your smartphone an easy target for a hacker to easily open your browser and gain access to all your online accounts. Preferably, avoid using auto-login features on your smartphone and instead use a password manager app that requires to regularly re-enter a master password. Also, try avoid using the same password for more than one app or service, as if this password gets hacked, this could be used to gain access to all your other private information. This is also applicable for secure smartphones as hackers break into online services on a regular basis to steal user credentials, which they later use to try out on other sites.
8. Lock individual apps
If you have a lot of apps that you’re constantly logged into, then it would be best if you lock those apps. While this capability isn’t built into the OS, there are many free apps such as AVG AntiVirus Free that provide it. In case of iOS users, they cannot directly lock individual apps, and would need an app to do so. You can check out ‘Folder Lock’, which is a free app available on the App Store that lets you password-protect your personal files, photos, videos, documents, contacts, wallet cards, notes and audio recordings.
9. Be aware of things happening in the background
Many a times, when we download a file from an email or install an app from a website, we are not aware of things that happen behind the scenes in spite of however trustworthy these sources may be. As an additional security measure on your smartphone for online activities, you can install ‘LogDog’ – a security app available for both Android and iOS. All you need to do is you give it permission to log in on your behalf to the accounts that you wish to monitor such as Facebook, Dropbox, Gmail, Evernote, Yahoo!, and Twitter. It will continuously monitor those accounts via their own respective activity logs for anything suspicious and will notify you immediately of any events that suggest tampering.
10. Review apps installed on your smartphone
It is a good practice to review all the apps installed on your smartphone regularly. Even though you may have been downloaded the apps from a trustworthy source, the subsequent updates could have turned them into something more evil.
iOS users can check what permission the apps installed on the smartphone are using by going to Settings > Privacy and get all the required information. However, Android users will need to take help of security apps to get an overview of which apps have which permissions. Users can use free packages from Avast and McAfee that alert them while installing a malicious app or issue a warning at the time of a phishing attack.
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