8 Tips for Securing Your Mobile Device

Many of us can’t imagine life without our mobile phones. Not only do they store all your contacts, making it unnecessary to remember a phone number ever again, but smart phones also allow you to check and send email, browse the web and check your account balances on the go (thanks to Pinnacle’s mobile banking app).

While apps are certainly convenient, they can pose a security risk if users aren’t careful. Here are several ways you can protect your phone or tablet from cyber threats.

  • Protect your data in case of theft. Because they’re so portable, the biggest threat to a mobile device is loss or theft. Several mobile products offer features to locate and recover a lost or stolen phone. Typically they also include the ability to lock the phone and wipe out all private data if it can’t be recovered. There are licensed security programs available for mobile devices that allow you to remotely lock and wipe the phone by text message.

  • Encrypt data. Install an encryption solution if confidential data must be accessed or stored using a mobile device, but you should avoid using or storing confidential data whenever possible.

  • Use anti-virus programs. Most people run anti-virus programs on their home computers but neglect to on their phones. Apps are available that let you scan your phone for malware and back up and restore your data online. These apps scan other apps, settings, media and phone contents in search of suspicious files.

  • Connect to secure Wi-Fi networks and disable Wi-Fi when not in use. When you’re not using them, it’s best to disable features like Bluetooth, infrared or Wi-Fi. Avoid joining unknown Wi-Fi networks when you need to connect.

  • Use caution when downloading apps. Check consumer reviews before you download an app. When you search for an app in the store, many of the descriptions will include recent reviews from other people who downloaded the app. Read the app’s privacy policy, which contains disclosures about what information the app collects and how it uses that information.

  • Review and set privacy settings. Many apps have privacy settings within the app itself, typically in the “settings” or “privacy” tab. The settings can manage activities like whether the app can access your local information. Check the privacy default settings to make sure you agree with them. You can also review the privacy settings for your device’s operating system. For example, you can turn off the phone’s ability to geo-locate you or create a password to protect the phone.

  • Never unlock or “jailbreak” the default security settings. While some sites may promote the use of unauthorized applications, games, etc., the end result is the same – you’ve left your device open for criminals to abuse with targeted mobile malware. You should never override the security settings in your tablet or phone, especially if you plan to access personal or business email, mobile banking or other sensitive information on the Internet.

  • Replace your phone properly. Many wireless providers offer programs that encourage you to upgrade your phone every few years. If you decide to get the latest model, be sure to delete all information stored in your device before discarding, exchanging or donating it.

Research from McAfee Inc. shows steady, significant growth in mobile malware. Numerous security experts have issued warnings recently about cyber criminals’ increasing interest in mobile platforms. Following the steps outlined above will go a long way toward thwarting some of these threats.

There are several reliable, licensed mobile security solutions available including Avast, Lookout and Sophos. If you’d like to learn more but don’t know where to start, check out the mobile security product comparison article in ComputerWorld magazine.

I also encourage you to look into the following applications and decide the right course of action for your particular needs:

  • Symantec’s Norton Mobile Security – remote security application
  • McAfee Endpoint Encryption or GuardianEdge Smartphone Protection – Encrypt confidential information and data
  • Lookout Mobile Security or AVG Antivirus – mobile device anti-virus scanners

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