Securing a tablet for web browsing in six easy steps

Filed Under: Android, Apple, Google, iOS, Malware, Mobile, Privacy, Vulnerability

Woman holding tablet. Image from ShutterstockInternet on the go has finally become a reality with today’s mobile technology. Whether you’re checking email at the coffee shop or taking a quick conference call at the beach, tablets make it easy to stay entertained and productive virtually anywhere life takes you.

Beware though. Taking your tablet online can make you vulnerable to an assortment of internet dangers, including identity theft and hackers. This is especially true if you’re taking advantage of a public hotspot rather than your home network. Follow these simple steps to ensure safe and secure browsing no matter where you are.

1. Use 3G rather than free WiFi

Wireless hotspots are often unsecured, leaving your information within sniffing reach of anyone within range of joining the network. Even encrypted WiFi connections can make your data accessible to the other guests around you. A 3G or 4G data plan is the best option for security, but not all mobile services are unlimited. The next few tips will minimize your risks when you do connect through a public network.

2. Use a VPN

Virtual private networks (VPN) are available through many mobile service providers. Featuring multiple layers of encryption, a VPN offers a secure way to surf the web without compromising your sensitive data. A VPN may also include additional features, such as remote desktop access to safely and conveniently access and transfer files between your home and work networks.

3. Be selective with your browsing

If you are not using a VPN, it's important to use caution when you're surfing the web using a WiFi hotspot. Websites with https addresses (rather than just http) are encrypted for better security. Make sure your email server uses this encryption throughout your session to keep snooping eyes out of your inbox. Save sensitive activities like banking or shopping for home if you can.

4. Keep your device secure

Turn simple passcode offHopefully, everyone understands the importance of protecting your tablet from physical thieves. You should have a strong PIN code or passphrase to prevent unauthorised access, and follow Naked Security's advice on how to protect your phone or tablet from thieves.

But be aware of the others ways criminals could access your data or tablet's resources.

Whether you’re connecting over a 3G network or a public hotspot, a good security app can prevent many headaches. These apps are similar to computer security software and can help protect your device from malware, as well as other online mishaps.

Sophos provides a free tool for securing Android devices from malware and other threats.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn't allow fully-featured anti-virus programs in its App Store - but the good news is that iOS hasn't suffered so far from anything like the malware problem that has troubled Android devices.

VPN services can provide secure surfing for laptops and tablets.

5. Download from trusted sources

Even when you’re browsing over a secure network, certain types of websites can pose threats to the security of your tablet. Some sites may attempt to download files to your device that could collect information or damage your existing files. Downloading apps from third-party sources can put your device at risk as well. Stick to trusted app stores such as the iOS App Store, Google Play and the Amazon App Store.

Historically, the official marketplaces have been suffered less from malicious apps than the third-party unofficial stores.

6. Keep your OS and apps up-to-date

Keeping your tablet and its software up to date is the best way to protect yourself as well as your device. System upgrades are particularly important because many of these updates contain vital security fixes. Running a previous version of the operating system can open your device up to even more dangers, especially hackers. Be sure to keep your apps up to date as well. Many have access to a great deal of information.

Tablets make it much simpler to stay connected in today’s busy world, but leaving your device open to security threats is a big mistake. Be sure to follow the advice above before you take your tablet online.

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11 Responses to Securing a tablet for web browsing in six easy steps

  1. Joe · 991 days ago

    Any recommendations for VPN service for Android and iOS tablets?

    • Phil · 991 days ago

      Buy a raspberry pi, stick it on your home network, and google how to use it as your own personal VPN access point.

  2. A lot, and I mean a lot, of people buy tablets that don't have a 3G/4G receiver, because they don't want the added cost, so emphasising that bit at the beginning seems a little redundant.

    Also, I second the request for VPN service recommendations.

  3. schmunzelmonster · 991 days ago

    "Apple doesn't allow fully-featured anti-virus programs in its App Store"

    • The most helpful part of an anti-virus is the real-time component which checks every file as it is accessed.

      That requires the anti-virus to plug into the operating system (iOS, in this case) at a low level, which Apple doesn't allow apps in its App Store to do. Sadly, that means that you could only do a fully-featured anti-virus for iPhones and iPads on a jailbroken device.

  4. JimboC_Security · 991 days ago

    Thanks very much for providing these easy steps to secure tablets. This aspect is too often neglected.

    • Charli · 987 days ago

      Jimbo, I agree! So glad you enjoyed it and could get some use out of it.

  5. With regards to the question about VPN services, I run an OpenVPN server at home, and have an OpenVPN client on my Android phone. Firmware's past 4.0 don't need root to do OpenVPN now, and it's *relatively* straightforward to set up the server end too.

  6. D. Msse · 986 days ago

    What about the diagram drawing password Are they secure? No one ever comments on this.

    • D. Msse -

      Diagram passwords are often very secure, of course all depending on the complexity. The one thing many people often forget is that fingerprint smudges can often give away the design, thus leaving your device unsecure. If you're going to rely on the drawing password, I would recommend getting an anti-smudge screen protector that will help minimize this issue.


  7. You forgot one aspect of mobile security; the use of a mobile secure browser. There are a whole slew of them available on all platforms, along with settings that can be setup within others to help with security. Chrome for iOS has a secure option, but is not always engaged. Webroot SecureWeb Browser is an always-on secure browser option. And within Safari options on iOS, if the user sets it up to allow cookies when asked, security is greatly increased.

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About the author

Charli Radke is a Tampa-based freelance technology writer exploring helpful tips, new gadget trends, and website design. Some of Charli's recent work has appeared on Huffington Post UK among many others and is working towards continuing her writing portfolio in the tech niche.