Don’t forget to protect your phone

First Posted: 2/5/2015

Maybe you haven’t thought about it, but your cell phone is your most important computer, especially if it is a smart phone.

We take them with us everywhere we go, connecting with friends, doing our banking, even shopping on the Internet from our phones. Business people download important documents and confidential information to their cell phones. We think nothing of protecting our laptops and traditional computers, but we give protecting our cell phones very little thought. As one expert put it, “Be as careful with your smart phone as you are with your PC.”

According to computer networking firm Juniper Networks Threat Center, attacks on cell phones grew at the startling rate of 614 percent from 2012 through 2013. That figure does not even take into consideration all the other ways hackers have been able to steal your valuable information from your phone.

Just like we protect our regular computers, we must protect our cell phones from attack as well. Here are some easy steps to stiffen security of your phone. Most of these tips can also be applied to protect your tablets, iPads and iPods as well.

• Use your phone’s built-in security measures. For example, most smart phones now offer both password and fingerprint protection to unlock your phone. Be sure not to tell anyone else your password. If you use fingerprint protection, you can enable three or four people’s fingerprints to open your phone.

• Make sure you are using the latest operating system for your phone. Surprisingly, most people don’t upgrade to the latest operating system. One reason Android and Apple have so many system upgrades is for your protection. They know that hackers and malware are attacking phones constantly.

• Before downloading any apps to your phone, especially free ones, read reviews and ratings. Also read the permissions that are given on any app that you download. It is amazing what information even trusted apps may want to access from your phone.

• If you are using public or free Wi-Fi, don’t text or email information that you do not want to become public, especially banking or other private data. These Wi-Fi networks may have more vulnerable information being intercepted.

• It is generally safer to use your phone system’s 3G or LTE network than to use a public Wi-Fi.

• Carefully examine the domain address. If it looks suspicious, be skeptical. It is tougher on a smart phone because of the screen size, but do it anyway.

• Install a password locker application similar to Mind Wallet (which is free) or mSecure Password Manager (which is paid). Your phone’s app store will have several password protection apps to choose from, all offering high degrees of security.

• Consider installing mobile security software. Well-known security companies such as Norton, McAfee and Kaspersky offer apps to safeguard your phone.

• Don’t open any emails or texts from someone you do not know. They may contain malware that will infect your phone.

• Turn off Bluetooth when you’re not using it, especially when you’re speaking or entering sensitive information into your phone.

• If your phone is lost or stolen, immediately notify your cellular provider and suspend service to that phone.

The bottom line is this: Protect your smart phone with the same or even more gusto as you would your personal PC or laptop. Remember, with the smart phone you’re always on your computer whenever you have it turned on, making your sensitive personal information vulnerable.

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