| Central Penn Business Journal
Protect the information on your smartphone
Remember the days when your phone was just your phone?
You used it for making personal and professional calls and "in case of emergencies."
Today, of course, our phones are much more than that. They hold sensitive emails, financial data, access to online services and, in some cases, are a complete dossier of who we are. In short, they are the modern wallet.
Unfortunately, many people forget how vulnerable these devices are to external attacks until it's too late. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for protecting yourself from fraud, identity theft and infiltration:
- Don't lose your phone. Yes, a no-brainer. You won't leave your wallet or purse unattended, so don't treat your phone that way.
- Set password protection. Set the device to lock or time-out after inactivity. These functions require a password for re-entry. Create a password that's easy to enter (since you'll be using it often) yet difficult for someone else to guess.
- Remote wipe. Remote-wipe functions let you locate (via GPS), lock, backup or clear all data from the handset. Some are provided by third-party developers like Symantec, Zenprise and Lookout, or look for the function within your device's operating system. Where's My Droid and Find My Phone are two of the most popular services.
- Practice safe surfing.
- Just like the growth of the desktop anti-virus market in the 1990s, we're about to see a similar explosion for smartphone security. Trojan horses, malware and viruses are on the rise for all platforms. And they don't just come from installing pirated software. Sometimes these attackers lurk in official app stores as well. Before you install that hot, new title, check the reviews, back up your data and update your malware or antivirus app.
- Beware SMS or MSS messages from people you don't know. Sometimes these text message-like communications contain links to malicious sites that compromise your device and allow remote access to your sensitive information.
- Don't overshare. During the installation process, many apps will ask for certain privileges. It could be your physical location, contact information or other personal data. Most of the time an app will be fine, but you don't always know how the shared information will be used. My suggestion is to not share what you wouldn't mind giving a stranger. So while I'm happy to share my location or the song I'm listening to with some apps, I would never provide access to my contact list, login credentials or Facebook wall.
Some of these tips are common sense. But a large amount of hacking occurs because consumers falsely believe:
- Their device is too old, too new or hack-proof.
- They have nothing of value on their phone.
- The smartphone manufacturers are protecting their identity/information.
Unfortunately, none of these things are true. I urge everyone to take an active role in protecting their devices and the wealth of information they contain.
What are your best practices?
Charles Palmer is executive director for the Center for Advanced Entertainment & Learning Technologies at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.