1. Not Using a Security Passcode
The biggest smartphone security sin is not using a passcode to protect your personal data. According to McAfee, a third of all smartphone users currently use their handsets without password protection. Almost a half of all users (45%) admit to using their smartphone without a security passcode.
Although it’s tempting to go without a passcode, it’s a huge risk to take in this current day and age. Nowadays, smartphones contain a treasure trove of personal information. To give an example, most people leave their phones signed in to e-mail and social media accounts. Anyone who picks up your phone will get access to all of this information. They can access saved messages and can reset online passwords linked to your e-mail. They can also access other personal information such as location history, saved passwords, photos, your phone book and any files saved in cloud storage.
By using a password on your phone, you can massively reduce the chance of identity theft in the unfortunate event of your phone getting lost or stolen.
2. Not Being Aware Of Your Surroundings
As well as protecting your smartphone with a secure passcode, it’s also important to be proactive and to avoid your phone getting lost or stolen. In most cases, smartphone theft can normally be prevented with an awareness of your surroundings. Here’s several tips on avoiding a smartphone robbery.
- Don’t attract attention when using your phone outdoors.
- Don’t leave your smartphone in an unattended car.
- Always maintain a firm grip when using your phone in public (this helps to prevent grab-and-run robbery). A two-handed grip is normally recommended (especially for phablets and tablets as they’re difficult to hold in one hand).
- Have your back to the wall when using a smartphone (so you’re able to keep an eye on what’s happening around you).
3. Not Checking Apps for Malicious Behaviour
When it comes to protecting your personal data, it’s not just real-world theft you need to be worrying about - it’s also theft of the digital variety. Malicious apps and viruses can secretly upload information from your phone to hackers and criminals. Malicious applications can also cost you money (e.g. by sending premium-rate text messages or stealing financial details).
To protect your privacy and security, it’s always important to check the permissions before you install a new application. Keep an eye out for certain risky permissions (for instance: services that cost money, access to your phone book, access to your calendar, access to your call log, access to SMS, access to location and the ability to read & write to the storage on your phone). Ask yourself why the permissions are required: does it make sense or does something smell fishy (e.g. is a calculator or torchlight application requesting access to your phone book?). If you’re in any doubt, it’s better to be safe and to cancel the installation.
4. Not Installing The Latest Software Updates
It’s always important to keep your phone up-to-date: install the latest software updates and update your applications on a regular basis. Older software and older versions of an app can sometimes contain security vulnerabilities. To give an example, handsets running on Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean contain a vulnerability to the Heartbleed attack. Many other apps are also vulnerable to Heartbleed though a software update will normally solve the issue.
Install software updates on a regular basis.
Where available, enable the option to automatically update your apps.
5. Sharing Your Location on Social Media Websites
Social media sites are a great way to stay in touch with the people around us. You can meet new people, chat with the people you know and share status updates with your friends and followers. Although social media is often a lot of fun, many people fail to consider the darker side of social. Namely, the over-sharing of data can sometimes leave you vulnerable to a range of criminal activity.
Location data is a major culprit for over-sharing on social media. Although it’s a lot of fun to brag about your holiday online, you could also be revealing to burglars that there’s nobody currently home. According to research in 2011, 78% of burglars have used social media websites to find their next victim.
Before sharing your location on social media, be sure to double-check who’s able to see the post. You should also think twice before posting anything publicly – is it really necessary to check-in on Foursquare and to let the world know you’re currently abroad? The same goes for tweeting and sharing photos on holiday. It can sometimes be better to wait until you arrive home?
- Before posting on social media websites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), be sure to double check who’ll be able to see your post. Setting the post to be visible to “friends only” is much safer than sharing it publicly.
- When possible, avoid sharing any location-related data (e.g. GPS check-ins or photos from a holiday).
- You should regularly conduct an audit of your friends list. By deleting people you don’t actually know, you’ll ensure that postings are only seen by the people you really know.
6. Using Public Wi-Fi Networks Insecurely
We all love free public wi-fi but how many of us know the potential risks to our privacy and security? The main problem with using public wi-fi is it’s fully open to the public. As most data is broadcast unencrypted, it’s possible for other users to intercept and read your data. Using a man-in-the-middle attack, malicious hackers can record information such as your password and e-mails. “Honeypot” or “evil twin” networks can also be used to steal your data.
- Avoid doing highly sensitive activities when using public wi-fi (e.g. online banking or shopping). If necessary, change to 4G for better security.
- When using a website that deals with personal data, always use the HTTPS version. Look in your browser address bar for “https://”. The HTTPS Everywhere plug-in for PC and Android can help to keep your data secure.
- Make sure your e-mail application is configured in a secure way.
- On laptops, always use the “Public Network” setting (this will stop other users from accessing resources such as your files & printers).
- Delete unused wi-fi networks from your list of saved networks. This will reduce your chances of encountering a honeypot network.
- Advanced users can use a VPN for better security.
7. Not Using Parental Controls
If you’re giving a smartphone to your children, it’s important to use parental controls. Parental controls are included as a feature on many of today’s smartphones. On smartphones running Windows Phone 8, the built-in Kids Corner provides a safe restricted environment where your children can enjoy apps without the potential dangers. You can also find parental control options on the iPhone and the Galaxy S5.
Before giving your phone to your children, it’s important to use the parental controls. They’ll keep your kids safe and your phone secure.