10 tips for securing your smartphone

10 tips for securing your smartphone

Smartphone. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.This month is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Each week within October will take on a different theme, with this week’s being ‘Mobile’.

So, with that in mind, we thought we’d prepare some tips to help keep your smartphone safe.

1. Always secure your smartphone with a password

One of the most basic security tips, but one which is sometimes completely overlooked! Having no access protection at all is just foolish. Swipe patterns are ok, but greasy finger-trails could reveal too much.

A four-digit PIN is an improvement but using a strong passcode is the ideal phone protection.

2. Ensure that your device locks itself automatically

If you set up password-protection on your phone but then leave it unlocked on your desk for 15 minutes, you won’t have achieved very much. Most smartphones allow you to set them up to automatically lock themselves after a period of inactivity.

Make sure you choose the shortest timeout you are comfortable with. Two to five minutes is better than ten to thirty, even if it does feel slightly inconvenient.

3. Install security software

Your smartphone is a computing device and should be protected accordingly. Look for an app like Sophos Mobile Security that includes malware prevention, remote data wipe, privacy review of apps and an automatic security advisor to alert you to potential risks when you change a device setting.

If you’re in charge of securing your organisation’s phones and tablets, then choose a mobile device management solution like Sophos Mobile Control.

4. Only download apps from approved sources

The Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store take security pretty seriously. They are very careful about what apps they make available and will withdraw apps that raise concerns after release.

Read user reviews of apps before installing them – if there are any security concerns then someone else may well have mentioned them.

5. Check your apps’ permissions

Apps. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.Many apps require more than the basic default permissions. For instance, you can reasonably expect an SMS app to send and receive text messages just as a mapping app will request your GPS location.

But something like a calculator that needs network access or an alarm clock that wants to read your contact database should be treated with extreme caution!

6. Don’t miss operating system updates

Updates to your OS often include system vulnerability patches, so it’s important to install them.

You might want to be advised of updates rather than having them automatically installed, as early adopters sometimes experience teething problems – but the forgetful among you may prefer that to missing updates altogether.

7. Be wary of any links you receive via email or text message

Now you can pick up email on your phone, exercise caution when clicking on links. And phishing scams are not limited to email – a text message can incite you to click on a dodgy link or ask for personal information.

Even simply replying to unknown SMS or email senders can raise the crooks’ interest in you, leading to more pressure to respond.

8. Encrypt your smartphone

Even if you’ve secured your smartphone with a password, a thief could still plug your device into a computer and gain access to all of your personal information. Using encryption on your smartphone can help to prevent such data theft.

9. Turn off automatic Wi-Fi connection

WiFi. Image courtesy of ShutterstockOne of the great things about modern mobile phones is their ability to connect to the internet in many ways, but continually probing for wireless networks gives away information about your identity and location, and blindly connecting to unencrypted access points can let your phone leak all sorts of useful things for malicious actors to intercept and act upon.

So tell your phone to forget networks you no longer use, so as to minimise the amount of data leakage and configure your phone to automatically turn on/off wireless in certain places using a location-aware smartphone app.

10. Turn off Bluetooth and NFC when not in use

Bluetooth and NFC (near field communication) are great in terms of connectivity, allowing you to use accessories such as wireless keyboards and headsets or make payments with a wave of your smartphone.

But it does open a door for the bad guys to gain access to your device and access your data, so you should either switch these features off or put your device into “not discoverable” mode whenever possible. Also, be careful when pairing devices – never accept requests from unknown devices.

If you’re responsible for mobile security at work, you might like to read our practical advice for handling smartphones in the workplace.

And if you’re interested in reading other stories related to National Cyber Security Awareness Month, read the 3 essential security tasks you can do for your family today and our 10 topical security tales.

Images of smartphone, apps and Wi-Fi courtesy of Shutterstock.