Guest Contributor

How to prevent your smartphone from being hacked

By | Charles David

Today’s smartphones can do more than computers 30 years ago and can do more than some of today’s laptops, at least in terms of versatility. That’s great news for those of us with active online lifestyles.

But there’s also bad news: Hackers are now targeting smartphones to cause all sorts of trouble. There are an estimated 2 billion smartphones in the world and most of them store or have links to the user’s personal information. That’s too big a target for hackers to ignore. Your dirty work can point to your smartphone…

Take steps to keep your phone safe.

Don’t wait to be a victim. The following smartphone security tips can help you keep your phone and its content out of the hands of hackers. Learn them and pass this tip on to your friends and family.

1. Lock your phone.

All phones have a password protection capability, but not all use it. They should. But don’t just set a password; change it regularly, which means about every three to six months. And be sure to lock your phone when you’re not using it! Some phones have lock “patterns” instead of codes, which might be an easier alternative, with all the passwords you have to remember. Use your head… or your face. Because you can unlock your phone using facial recognition: your phone’s camera recognizes you and unlocks the phone.

2. Turn on tracking.

You can “lo-jack” your phone, so to speak, by enabling its tracking feature if you have one. If your phone is lost or stolen, you can track its whereabouts. More than that, if you fear that it is in the wrong hands and that a thief might access your data, you can remotely lock the phone with the tracking app.

3. Update your operating system.

Make sure you get the latest updates for your phone. Computer operating systems (Windows for PC, macOS for Apple) are frequently updated between new releases. Phones also update their operating system, especially for close-up leaks that hackers may have discovered. You can get an update from your phone directly, or you can sync your phone with your computer, using the manufacturer’s website to download the latest update. It’s a simple way to stay safe.

 4. Be careful with apps.

Think carefully before downloading an app! Be sure to download from the App Store or from Google Play, which always verifies the authenticity of the apps they offer. An app-happy smartphone user could somehow be tricked into clicking on an app that looks fun and engaging.

Please read the description carefully to know what you are getting into. For example, if an app asks for a link to other apps that contain your personal information, don’t accept it. Finally, never download apps via text messages, which is one way hackers can infect your device with malware. Only accept links to the legitimate app store.

5. Beware of the free wifi.

Beware of unsecured wireless networks. If you switch from your provider’s Internet service to a Wi-Fi connection, you risk making your data available for others to see. Many wireless networks that you might assume are “secure” (hacker-proof) are not. When you switch to Wi-Fi, make sure you’re using the public connection owned by a company.

Hackers will go into crowded areas and open up their own free wireless “hotspots” with a realistic-sounding name. Once you connect, they can, with the right equipment in their possession, steal your private data. One of the best precautions to protect yourself from hacker attacks is to use a VPN. This one helps to encrypt your traffic and therefore hackers cannot access your personal data. You may want to learn more about what VPN is.

6. Never open strange texts.

Do not open any texts from strangers, unknown numbers or that seem strange to you. If you open a message, do not click any link in the message. This is how hackers empty their payload… a virus or worm… and this is how they can steal your data. Get in the habit of deleting text you just don’t recognize. And once again, don’t download any apps via text.

7. Keep your phone with you or locked up.

Thieves steal smartphones all the time! It’s the fastest way to get a free phone. Don’t let them take yours! Do not leave it out in the open in public, such as on a restaurant table or library desk. Do the same even if you’re at work because not everyone who walks through your office is necessarily an employee…or necessarily your friend. Keep it locked up in a drawer if you must leave it behind.

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