There’s no denying that cell phones have become significant tools, helping people through their day-to-day errands. These gadgets are useful, not only in peoples’ personal lives and relationships, but also in business deals, corporate tasks, and school works. Indeed, in this modern age, iPhones and Android phones are now necessities.
With 5.19 billion users, these devices have also become hot targets of cybercriminals.
When released to the market, cell phones are pre-installed with the latest version of an operating system and security features. Manufacturers also provide regular software updates to patch bugs and vulnerabilities. Despite these other initiatives, phone security is never a one-man job – it’s a shared responsibility of both the manufacturing company and the end-users.
Cell Phone Security Threats
In 2019, 43% of organizations in the United States sacrificed mobile security and malicious apps led to 50% of mobile threats. In 2020, the FBI saw a 50% surge in mobile banking amid the pandemic which triggered them to raise their level of alertness for a possible surge of app fraud.
These statistics are enough proof that the security threats on cell phone data received and stored are as real as those we’ve always been warned about when using computers.
Below are the most common dangers you need to look out for when using your mobile device.
Data Leakage and Privacy Breach
Phone apps usually need the user’s permission to gain a certain level of access to function properly as programmed. Unfortunately, when abused, such access could lead to leakage of personal information and sensitive data. Apps usually store the confidential and personal data they’ve gathered in a database that could be used by advertisers and manufacturers. The risk for lost or stolen data happens when cybercriminals gain access to the said database. So, always be careful what app permissions you give.
In most cases, hackers gain access to a cell phone through phishing links that are sent via email, chat, or text. Cybercriminals prefer using phishing attacks on phone users as they usually check their messages in real-time.
This attack is the masking of malicious networks as legitimate connections. These fake access points are usually available in public places such as airports and coffeehouses, waiting for phone users to connect to the “free WiFi” network.
E-commerce and online shopping centers are made easily accessible through phones. E-skimming, the digital version of the famous credit card skimming, is the attack used to capture payment details by putting malicious codes on the checkout page of online shopping stores.
Cell Phone Security Measures: To-Do List
Just because phone use is susceptible to certain risks and dangers, doesn’t mean you should stop using one. These threats should be perceived as reminders of the importance of security measures.
PIN or Password Protection
It’s not enough that you create PINs or passwords, you have to use phone login information that is complicated and unguessable. Avoid using your birthdate and basic-patterned codes, and recycled passwords or PINS you already use. It’s also recommended that you change your PIN and password at least every three months, and activate multiple or two-factor authentication.
Sometimes, someone doesn’t need to have any special hacking skills to get into a cell phone. Often, a phone user doesn’t enable auto-lock, allowing anyone to view a phone if they physically have it. Be sure to set the auto-lock to ensure no one other than you can just view or access it. Also, set your apps to not display any information such as notifications and messages on your lock screen.
Encryption is the process of converting plain text into an unreadable data format known as the ciphertext. Cell phones are fed and are processing loads of data continuously. One way of securing all this information is by enabling data encryption.
Remote Wipe and Back-Up Your Data
Getting your phone lost or stolen is highly risky as you won’t exactly know how your device will be used or if the device will fall into the wrong hands. The moment you confirm that your phone is gone for good, it’s best to remotely wipe out everything. This is why you should always have your data backed-up. Often, you can use built-in phone tools such as Find My iPhone and Find My Device to locate your phone, lock it, and remotely wipe your data.
Software System & App Updates
Manufacturers regularly release new versions of their operating systems and new updates for their software programs. This is the same for the apps you use on your phone, Be sure to download and/or install updates as they become available as they are often meant to patch mobile security bugs and vulnerabilities.
Use Officially Approved and Trusted Applications
Stick to using apps available on your phone’s official market – the App Store or Google Play. The apps available on these platforms are pre-validated and vetted so they’re less likely to be infected or a scam. Also, be sure to only download and use apps that are reputable and trustworthy. If you are unsure, you can do a little research online about the app and view user reviews.
Private Networks and Connections
Privacy starts with ensuring all connections and access are private – from a private network to a private browser. Using reliable virtual private networks is highly advisable especially if you can’t avoid connecting to public WiFi.
To add an extra layer of protection, install antivirus or anti-malware software on your phone. Such security apps are programmed to regularly check the device for threats and quarantine them if found.
Delete Unused Apps
Unused apps could be entry points for hackers especially if these aren’t regularly updated. If you no longer use an app, it’s best to just uninstall it or delete any created account on it. If it’s a social media app, per se, be sure to deactivate your account first before uninstalling it so the data will be wiped out.
Using spyware to secure your phone may sound odd, but it helps. A reliable and trustworthy spy app isn’t only good for spying or monitoring. These apps have a wide array of useful features such as remote data wipe-up, real-time activities logging, and much more.
Cell Phone Security Measures: Not-To-Do List
Aside from religiously following the aforementioned safety tips, be sure to avoid doing any of the below to better ensure your phone’s security.
Root/Jailbreak Your Phone
Rooting an Android phone or jailbreaking an iPhone unlocks a new level of administrative access. This freedom, however, comes with additional responsibilities. When not properly maintained, a rooted or jailbroken phone is exposed to various security risks.
Links From Unknown/Untrusted Source
Avoid clicking on links, especially those that are sent by unknown or untrusted sources. Scrutinize any text, message, or email you receive that pose as your bank, account site, or network.
App Access and Permissions
Don’t mindlessly allow permissions or access just so you use a certain app. Weigh the possible risks versus the importance of the app. If it’s not worth it, it’s better to not use the app than exposing yourself and your data.
Public Charging Ports
Juice jacking is another attack used by cybercriminals wherein they compromise wires and use those to transmit data. Cybercriminals use this method to infiltrate public charging ports and stations in coffee shops, airports, and other public places.
Keeping your phone secure and safe is a shared responsibility. Most of the time, the manufacturers keep their end of the deal, and compromises are caused by lapses on the user’s end. Be a responsible and cautious cell phone user. After all, it’s your data and information that are at risk.
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