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smartphones2In this era where mobile technology advances faster than the blink of an eye, the talk of security issues has gained momentum. Owning a smart phone means you are carrying around a miniature computer with its own often removable storage. When you protect your smart phone, you are protecting your asset but also your data and all important information stored in it. There is more at stake than just losing contacts and text messages. Even if you don’t use your phone for internet and storage of sensitive data, your phone is still at risk if not properly protected. Here are ways to protect you and your phone from the rising malicious parties.

Lock it

This seems obvious but activating your PIN code on the phone bars the thief from accessing your contacts and social media accounts that are active on the phone. If a phone with unrestricted access is stolen, lost or left unattended to, this can result into data being stolen, phone calls being made or unwanted services being registered for. This implies that the thief will not get any information about you thus keeping you and your other property safe from the thief.

Many new smart phones have several security locks that include pattern locks, passwords, and PIN numbers. This implies that a personalized shape, password or number only known to the user can be activated onto the phone to minimize accessibility phone data by other people. Avoid using obvious password like ‘123’ and other common phrases. Limited access to the phone information will reduce the usefulness of the phone to whoever has stolen it or intends to misuse it.

Protect sensitive data

Gone are the days when the only protection of phone data was by PINS, and passwords as these simply prevent someone from being able to turn on the phone. This implies that someone can still access your data by simply plugging it into a computer or removing the SD card. Sensitive data such as passwords, login details, account numbers and other important access information is mostly stored on the internal storage.

Most Smartphone platforms offer software that can encrypt files or folders on a device with industry-standard protection. Once installed, a code must be entered before a file can be viewed or copied to ensure that sensitive information isn’t easily accessible.

This software is downloaded free of charge while some might be purchased online. Choose the one that is compatible with your phone so as to provide automated unlimited protection for your data.

Also available on the market are secure online servers where sensitive data can be remotely stored so that in the event of the phone being stolen or misplaced, one can easily change the login details for the server or remove the details all together.

Back up your data

The most painful thing about losing a phone is loss of important information such as contacts, and documents most of which may take ages to replace and some may never ever be recovered.

Regular backups should be done to ensure that all data on the phone is safely available elsewhere in case the phone is stolen or misplaced. Most modern phone users allow users to ” synchronize” information with a computer or website whereby it can be included in emails, contacts with Microsoft Outlook, proprietary software supplied by phone manufacturers to backup data.

Some local mobile network service providers also provide backup data services by activating the service on your sim card at a minimal fee.

Switch off your Bluetooth

Keep your Bluetooth switched off when you are not using it. Alternatively set the Bluetooth configuration to ‘non-discoverable’ mode so that your phone cannot be identified by hackers around you who are looking for targets.  Hackers always find ways to remotely access a phone provided within their range and use it to make calls, access data, listen in on conversations and browse the internet. All unknown request to ‘pair’ with your phone should be declined.

Watch your wireless

Most smart phones will sense immediately wireless internet within close range. Wireless is often has high speed internet thus saves on data usage costs. However, it is important to note that any device that is enabled to send data across the airwaves is a potential security threat.

In order to avoid being a target to malicious people, ensure that your wireless connection is always switched off when it is not in use. This will also help you save some battery power. Also ensure that your network security settings are not configured to automatically connect to any network within range such as Wireless hotspots and unknown networks. Hackers have been known to to offer access to a wireless connection that looks very much like a legitimate hotspot from a large hotspot company. If users connect to this ‘hotspot’ they may find requests for passwords, login details and other information that can be used to access their accounts at a later stage

Set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN is a secure private network that can be set up to significantly reduce the risk of potentially sensitive data from being accessed by un-authorized people. This is practical for people who use phones to communicate in a corporate environment because it allows the users to access specific sites and company resources.

Caution when downloading applications

There is need to pay attention when downloading applications and to the requirements of the software demands during installation. The Anderoid market recently faced a Malware scare. Most people ‘agree’ to the terms and conditions of installing an app without even reading through them let alone understanding them well. It is important to ensure that what you agree to is realistic and does not grant access to your private information. Be sure to use the official channels to download applications, all alternative sources should be treated as a potential risk

Do not simply accept qualification messages especially to respected applications and popular websites that pop up when you are online.

Websites that involve the entry of sensitive data such as a username, password or account details should always use encrypted protocols to protect this information. This can be confirmed by the presence of an “s” at the end of “http” at the start of a webpage URL(https://) or a visiblepadlock icon on the status bar of a browser to confirm that the connection is encrypted.  Always  look for thesewhen using any websites that have requested personal details.

Do not Root your phone

Rooting is involves modifying the file system to allow users access to read only files and part of the operating system that the manufacturer or the service provider doesn’t want you to change. This enables the phone to change or remove read only applications that the user doesn’t want, change the boot screen, backup the entire system, run specialized applications and install custom made interfaces and alternative versions.

However, rooting opens up your data to infection by Malware, hence hackers gain full access to your device once it becomes infected

Rooting is common and easy for open platform operating systems. Avoid applications that make request root access