Banking, shopping, doing your taxes, sharing and storing photos and more - as smartphone capabilities grow so too do the opportunities for hackers to get their hands on your private info. So how do you go make sure that your smartphone and the information it contains remains safe? Here are five straightforward tips to put to use this year:
Auto lock it
Your first line of defense when protecting your mobile is to set it to lock automatically. Set up a password that’s convenient to type and easy to remember. Chief technology officer for Perimeter E-Security, Andrew Jaquith, advises you stick to a password that’s long enough to "pair it with an auto-destruct policy - fail eight times to enter the right password and it deletes the data on the phone - to be sure your data will be safe."
To create a tough password that’s not easy for an opportunist or hacker to break, those in the know advocate the use of 15 characters. They’re 90 times more difficult to decipher than 14-character passwords. And you should always use a mix of letters and numbers to make your password a strong one.
Patches are your friend
Mobiles, like PCS, need regular patching to get rid of any weaknesses that might have popped up after the release of the device. Chief Technology Officer for security firm Lookout, Kevin Mahaffey, advises that users always accept updates.
"When you are prompted on Android, update," he says. These updates are there to keep you and your data safe. "For iPhone users, it's a bit more complex. You need to plug in and update your apps," he added.
Say no to shady apps
Steer clear of malicious apps, like the DroidDream app that attacked a quarter million Android devices inside a month, by only downloading from trusted app stores. Stick to popular apps to stay safe, and check out those app reviews - those with a large number of comments and reviews are likely to be safer too.
Forget about jailbreaking
It can be convenient for sure, but there’s a reason mobile security experts warn against ‘jailbreaking’ your phone. Jailbreaking removes the digital-rights management that locks your phone to a certain carrier. The problem with doing that is the bulk of your phone’s security is directly linked to code signing and software sandboxing, and your device’s security can be instantly compromised when you mess with that.
Remember to back-up
Just like we’re always lectured to remember to back up our hard drives, the same is true for you mobile data. Thankfully, today’s smartphones make that easy. Getting into the data back-up habit means you’re far less likely to lose any important data, even in the event of a hack.
"Now that there is over-the-air syncing and updates, it's really easy to restore your phone," cloud security firm Zscaler’s Michael Sutton explains. "If your phone gets taken or the data deleted, it takes 30 minutes and your phone is back to normal."