Smartphone Survival Guide
Smartphone Security, Safety, and Privacy
Understanding Smartphone Security and Safety is of paramount importance. Wireless devices have become a regular part of our lives as these helpful communication devices make it so convenient to get a lot done, while on the go.
Mobile phones are no longer just wireless devices with which you make calls and send text messages. They are like mini-computers that help you with daily tasks. Tasks like checking email, social networking, GPS for directions, online shopping and banking, watching TV, playing games, using various apps, and of course, text messaging or texting, and using them to make telephone calls.
Many of these devices can be turned into Wi-Fi hotspots, allowing you to access the internet via your laptop or tablet, while you're out and about. They also have built-in cameras for taking pictures, recording videos, and video chatting.
This huge rise in online activity using smartphones has made many users victims to hackers, scammers and identity thieves. Some mobile devices like iPhones and Windows 7 phones are more secure as compared to their Android counterparts. And using 3G and 4G connections are much more secure than Wi-Fi connections, especially public Wi-Fi hotspots, however, no one is exempt from cyber crime.
Although we know the dangers involved in becoming victims of identity theft, online fraud, and scams via our smartphones, I don't think most people are going to give them up altogether. In fact, stats have clearly shown that an increasing number of people are using smartphones, including teenagers and seniors.
We will continue to see a rise in online fraud, identify theft, and hacking via smartphones. Therefore, it's critical to take the time to understand some of the basics of online security and take necessary action to prevent yourself from becoming a victim. Learn how to safely navigate through the treacherous wireless highways.
Poll: Mobile Phone Usage - Smartphone vs Regular Cell Phone
Do you use a Smartphone or Regular Cell Phone?
Mobile Phone Security
Smartphone Security Tips
How to Securely Setup your Smartphone?
As mentioned earlier, we are doing a whole lot using our smartphones. Given that a load of personal information is stored on our wireless devices, we need to secure it before it falls into the wrong hands.
There are many simple things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of online fraud, identify theft, and scams, as well as protecting your device from viruses, malware and spyware.
Password Protection: One of the first things you should do when setting up your smartphone is password-protect it. Use a hard to crack password, yet easy to remember. Avoid using your date of birth, or pet's name, or numbers like 1234, 7777, etc. as your password. Instead, use a combination of alphabets, numbers and symbols to create secure passwords. Also, regularly change your password.
Data Backup: Once you complete setting up your smartphone, back it up. Backing up your data, will save you a lot of time and frustration later, in case you lose it or need to reset it to the factory settings. There are several ways to back up the data on your wireless device: one of the simplest ways is to sync it with your computer or tablet; another option is to use one of the many cloud back-up services online on a secured website; depending on what type of model you have, check your device manual for backup options. There are useful backup apps too.
Security Apps: Viruses, malware, and spyware have been around for a long time now as most of us have experienced when using our computers. Just like we protect our computers with virus and internet security software, it is a good idea to protect your smartphone with readily available software. These security software come in the form of apps (or applications), some of which are free to use, while others cost a few bucks. Either way, install a security app (see details below).
Remote Tracking: Many security apps today have features which enable you to remotely track your wireless device if it's lost or stolen. This remote tracking feature also allows you to remotely delete sensitive information on it. However, in order to use this feature, it needs to be set up and activated. Therefore, find out if your smartphone is equipped with this feature and accordingly set it up in case you need to use it, before it's too late.
Monthly Statements: Regularly check your monthly statements, specifically scan your SMS (text messages) and MMS (photo messaging) to identify any suspicious messages. If your phone has spyware installed in it, it may be sending the same SMS or MMS to two or more places. This may also help identify if it is hacked as well as dispute any charges for messages you didn't send.
Never leave your mobile phone unattended or lend it to anyone you don't trust. Spyware can be installed on it to remotely track your online activity. It can also retrieve more sensitive information like usernames, passwords, as well as banking and credit card information.
Video: Smartphone Security Tips
Mobile Security Apps
Norton Mobile Security App
The Norton Mobile Security Android app has features to set up anti-theft and anti-loss protection which enables you to remotely locate your phone, lock it, wipe its data, even send out a “scream” alarm, and lock the SIM Card.
Benefits of Installing Mobile Security Apps on Smartphones
Smartphones today are very versatile, allowing us freedom and capability to do a lot on the go and save time.
There are thousands of useful apps, many of which are free or reasonably priced, that help simplify daily tasks, keep us up-to-date, pursue hobbies, play games, help us be more productive, and so much more.
Most of these free mobile apps, when downloaded, access some of our personal and sensitive data from our phones. Some of these apps access data and share it with third-party vendors. Even worse, some of these free apps can contain malware and spyware that could potentially compromise our data and identity.
Given that your smartphone stores a lot of personal and sensitive data, you need to ensure that you protect this data. As indicated earlier, part of securing your wireless device is installing a reputable and trusted security software in the form of a security app to keep viruses, malware, and spyware at bay.
Many of these security apps also provide features like backing up your sensitive data, remotely wiping data, remotely locking your device, scanning and detecting malicious apps, anti-phishing web protection, locating your lost or stolen mobile phone, and many other useful security features.
Some of these mobile security apps are available free, but do have some premium features available at a cost. Listed below are some reputable security apps for Android devices. However, before you download apps, here are a few tips to help minimize the risk of downloading malicious apps:
- When downloading apps, ensure to go directly to the app market, for example for Android apps, visit the Android Market (now Google Play);
- Before downloading apps, do some due diligence by checking reviews and checking to see if it's from a trusted and reputable source;
- Make sure to understand what personal information will be accessed by the app before you grant permission to the app.
The video below reviews the Norton Mobile Security app for Android devices which I currently use. In the section below, you will find other comparable security apps featured. Many of them are free, but do have premium versions too. The security apps featured below can be downloaded from the Amazon Appstore. However, you can download them directly from the official Android Appstore (Google Play).
Video: Mobile Security Apps for Android Phones
The free version of NQ Mobile Security includes scanning and blocking of malware, spyware and viruses as well as a safe browsing feature. It includes a network manager feature that monitors data usage by apps as well as privacy protection to detect apps that access private info without permission.
This security app also includes a backup and restore feature, system optimization, and functionality to remotely find your lost phone. The premium feature includes automatic virus database updates, anti-theft feature to remotely lock your phone and wipe the data as well as sound a loud alarm. The premium version costs $19.99/year.
Poll: Mobile Phone Security Apps
Do you have a mobile security app installed on your phone?
Online Shopping & Banking with Smartphones
Is it safe to shop and bank online using a Smartphone?
Smartphones have made our lives so much easier, at least if used properly. With the increasing number of people using these communicating devices, online retailers and banks have made it more convenient for their customers to shop and bank online, while on the go, using these mobile apps.
So you're probably wondering, is it safe to shop and bank online using a Smartphone? Well, just like we shop and bank online using our computers, it is safe to do so, provided you've taken the necessary steps (as mentioned earlier) to securely setup your smartphone.
When shopping and banking online using your mobile device ensure to use secure and reputable websites. One way to determine whether a website is secure is to look for the "https://" in the web address. If you're using a security app, it will caution you that you are using an unsecure website.
When shopping and banking online ensure that you do so on secured networks like the 3G or 4G networks or a secured Wi-Fi network. Avoid using free public Wi-Fi hotspots which makes it fairly easy for hackers to gain access to your cell phone and potentially personal information on it. In fact, in some cases, hackers set up free public Wi-Fi networks specifically to hack into smartphones and other wireless devices to gain access to your sensitive and personal information.
Also, by now, you've probably heard about phishing which is a way for hackers to gain access to your username and password using fake websites posing as authentic and trustworthy sites via email spoofing. Similarly, SMiShing, is the act of phishing via your smartphone through SMS (text) messaging. Never log in to your bank account, using your wireless device, through a link that you received via a text message, instead, go directly to your bank's website or use their secure mobile banking app.
When downloading banking apps, ensure they are authentic ones from your financial institution. Especially when using Android apps, which can be developed easily by hackers and find their way to the app market because of the open-source nature of the Android app environment. iPhone apps are much more secure since Apple requires all apps to be pre-approved before they are made available to iPhone users.
If you bank online using your smartphone, another precaution you can take is to set up automatic banking alerts (generally via text messages or email) that alert you of potentially suspicious transactions. Most banks today provide this useful precautionary service which I believe is worth subscribing to.
Bottom line is that you should treat your smartphone the same way you treat your credit card in order to protect it from being compromised.
Video: Online Shopping & Banking with Smartphones
Poll: Banking & Shopping on Smartphones
Do you shop or bank online using your smartphone?
Mobile Location Privacy
Understanding Mobile Location Privacy
As discussed earlier, smartphones are like mini mobile computers. They have versatile features including cameras for taking pictures, recording videos, GPS for navigation, and different apps that help with location-specific tasks.
I'm sure you've come across the terms geotagging which is the process of tagging geographical coordinates (i.e. latitude and longitude coordinates) to your pictures, videos, SMS / MMS messages, etc.
Some mobile apps require your location coordinates to function effectively and provide location-based services . For example, if you are driving and want to use the built-in GPS functionality, you will have to provide permission to track your current location. Also, if you're shopping and looking for bargains, advertisers use geo-locations to provide you location-specific discounts and coupons. As you can see, these location-specific features can be beneficial.
On the flipside, leaving your smartphone geo-location perpetually turned on may jeopardize your privacy and safety. Nowadays, many users share status updates, pictures and videos on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. using their mobile devices. With the geo-location turned on, your location is tagged along with your status updates. This information can end up in the hands of unsuspecting individuals who could put your safety at risk.
Most mobile phone apps that require you to share your geo-location have options for all or nothing. Therefore in some cases, it's a trade-off between privacy concerns versus the benefits of the service. Either way, it's important for you to understand what permissions you are giving specific mobile apps and leaving your digital footprint.
Hopefully the above information justifies the need for you to ensure that you take the time to setup your smartphone properly and understand the risks to your privacy. To check and change your location settings, refer to your owner's manual. In most cases, it's in the Settings menu under Location Services.
Video: Understanding Mobile Location Privacy
Poll: Mobile Location Privacy
Were you aware of Mobile Location Privacy?
Smartphones & Kids
Smartphones, Kids, and Online Safety
We are seeing an increasing number of children using mobile phones. There are many benefits to letting your kids have their own cell phone, however, there are many dangers involved as well. Whether we like it or not, cell phones are here to stay and will only become more advanced and evolve into super-phones in the coming years. It's happening.
Therefore the important thing is to educate yourselves (as parents), teach your kids smartphone safety, and monitor their activity, keeping in mind their privacy. Infringing on your kids' privacy is a sensitive topic, however, as parents you have a responsibility to protect your kids. So learn to exercise good judgment.
If you decide to provide a mobile device to your kids, ensure that they understand the Smartphone Security Tips discussed earlier. When it comes to these wireless devices and kids, there are certain aspects that you need to keep in mind and understand:
As you know, you can access the internet using a smartphone. Therefore, if you've set parental controls on your home computer, they may not necessarily apply on your kids' mobile phones. The security apps featured earlier will help you to do so.
Online social networking is very popular among kids today. Doing so over a smartphone can pose certain dangers. Make sure that you and your children understand the security and safety risks involved. Hackers can target social networks by SMiShing, phishing, and downloading of malicious apps that can compromise sensitive and personal information and put your kids' safety in jeopardy.
Texting is very popular among kids. Ensure that you understand your text messaging plan to avoid exorbitant charges. Sexting or sending inappropriate content via MMS (photo texts) is another disturbing trend among teens that you need to warn your kids about because it can have devastating effects on your kids' lives.
Cyber-bulling has gone wireless as well. Though mobile phones have their benefits and can provide some security for your kids, they can also be used to wreak havoc. Cyber-bullying is one such crime that's penetrated the mobile world. Take the time to educate your kids about this every increasing problem and how to deal with it.
Check the video below for more tips to understand the security and safety risks of using mobile phones and how you can help keep your kids safe.
Video: Smartphones, Kids, and Online Safety
Poll: Mobile Phones & Kids
Do your kid(s) have their own mobile phone?
Texting and Driving
Poll: Texting & Driving
Do you text and drive?
Texting and Driving Kills
With the increasing number of the population using mobile phones, distracted driving is rapidly becoming a growing problem.
Granted, they have many benefits and have become a regular part of our lives. However, with this almost indispensable wireless device comes responsibility. It is imperative that adults use this tool responsibly and teach their children to do the same.
As per a study conducted by the CDC analyzing distracted driving, 75 percent of drivers in the United States, between ages 18 to 29, reported having talked on their mobile phone while driving at least once in the past 30 days. Also, 40 percent reported that they used them regularly while driving. These are alarming stats and could get worse.
The fact of the matter is that texting and driving kills, we've seen the devastating impacts via media reports of fatal accidents due to this growing problem. Daily, 15 people are killed and over 1,200 are injured in accidents caused by distracted driving. Some studies have shown that texting and driving is equally bad, if not worse, than drinking and driving. In many countries, including US and Canada, it is illegal to use a cell phone while driving. We can all make a difference by acting responsibly!
Distracted Driving Stats: reported by CDC
Video: Texting and Driving Kills
Smartphone Health Risks
Poll: Mobile Phone Health Risks
Do you understand the health risks of using mobile phones?
Mobile Phone and Your Health
Mobile phone technology uses electromagnetic radiation through radio waves (microwave range). The radio-frequency energy emitted by these wireless devices and their towers are non-ionizing radiation as opposed to those emitted by X-Ray machines.
In the past few years, there has been concern that radio-frequency waves could affect brain cells, potentially cause cancer, affect testosterone levels, and many more health related concerns. Though there have been many studies on cell phones posing health risks, many of them have been conflicting with no conclusive results. However, you can take simple steps to reduce the negative affects of mobile phone use:
- Avoid placing your mobile phone close to your body, especially vital organs;
- Don't sleep with your mobile phone very close to you;
- Use them in speaker mode to decrease radiation;
- Don't use your cell phone while driving;
- Keep the battery fully charged.
Video: Mobile Phone and Your Health, Dr. Oz
Mobile Remote Tracking
Poll: Lost or Stolen Smartphone
Has your mobile phone ever been lost or stolen?
What to do if you've lost your mobile phone or it's been stolen?
Smartphones allow us to do so much on a daily basis and use them like mini mobile computers, while on the go. However, we need to be aware that there is a lot of sensitive and personal information stored in it.
One of the worst things that can happen to your mobile device is that it gets stolen or you lose it. Therefore before this happens, it is important to learn how to securely setup your smartphone.
If you're reading this after the fact, try calling your cell phone or texting it. If you don't get a response, one of the first things you should do, if you lose it or it's stolen, is inform your wireless service provider. They will be able to suspend your service so your phone plan can't be accessed and you're not charged for unauthorized use.
As mentioned earlier, there are security apps with remote tracking features that allow you to remotely track your smartphone and delete its content or lock it. If you've set up this remote tracking feature, then make use of it. With the remote tracking feature, try locating your device. If you have no success locating it, your best bet is to remotely erase your personal and sensitive data.
Also, worth noting is your mobile phone's IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number. The IMEI number is a unique number that can be used by wireless service providers to disable the smartphone so it cannot be used on any network. Make sure you note this number in advance. You can enter "*#06#" on your keypad and it will provide you the IMEI number (if it has one). Though, I understand this service is not available in all countries.
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