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5 Tips on How to Keep Your Mobile Devices Safe

January 23rd, 2023 | by
Illustration of a smartphone

Source: Own illustration

They keep us connected at all times and in all places. They accompany us everywhere, wake us up, remind us of important appointments and provide us with entertainment. We are, of course, referring to smartphones. What was originally intended as a means of communication is now a calendar, camera, photo album, pocket watch, navigation device, pedometer and game console all in one. Even as most-used devices for Internet access, mobile devices have long since surpassed desktop computers. Smartphones are the very top of the list.

Mobile devices are practical everyday helpers, but they also hold a large amount of personal data, such as bank and credit card information. It is not uncommon for these end devices to even be used for two-factor authentication for bank transactions and other services. This makes them a popular target for hackers. With a few tips, you can effectively protect your mobile devices and the data stored on them.

Turn on the Safety Functions

Modern smartphones have several security features by default. You can and should enable these features in your smartphone’s settings. The simplest solution against unwanted physical access to your smartphone is the screen lock. A security code is then required to unlock the screen. This security code is usually a pattern or a combination of numbers. Logical number sequences like 12345 should be avoided at all costs.

You should also clean the device’s screen regularly, especially when using swipe patterns, as swipe traces could give away certain patterns. Many smartphones are now also capable of reading biometric data. Thus, the smartphone can additionally be secured based on the user’s own body features, such as the fingerprint or the iris. Furthermore, the additional query of the PIN code when the device is switched on provides an additional security factor.

Trusted Apps and Updates

Smartphones can also get infected with spyware and viruses. These can be infiltrated into a device in various ways. For example, the malware can sneak in with downloads or hide behind malicious ads or links. Some of these malicious programs are simply bothersome, slowing down the device and bombarding the user with advertisements, while others can cause great damage by stealing sensitive data. For this reason, you should only install applications from known and reliable providers. Also, be sure to check the access rights and terms of use of apps before installing them.

Security patches and updates of software and operating systems should also be installed promptly. Over time, more and more security holes and vulnerabilities are being uncovered. These vulnerabilities can be fixed with the help of updates. Outdated software that is not regularly updated always poses a high security risk and quickly becomes a target for cybercriminals. When purchasing a device, it is important to consider for how long the manufacturer is providing corresponding updates. Especially when buying second-hand devices, be sure to check that updates are still being offered.

The Risks of Wi-Fi Hotspots

More and more public facilities are offering free Wi-Fi access. Whether at the airport, in a shopping mall, in a café or in a hotel – free Wi-Fi access can prove very useful. But this freedom comes at a price, and many people underestimate the risks involved. When using a free Wi-Fi network, chances are that hackers can get between your device and the access point. Be sure to disable automatic dial-in to public Wi-Fi so that your device doesn’t dial into an unknown network without your knowledge.

If you want to use a Wi-Fi hotspot, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Refrain from entering sensitive personal data while connected to an open WLAN. When surfing, you should also always make sure that the websites you visit are encrypted. You can recognize trustworthy websites by the fact that the URL begins with https://. Security risks can also be reduced considerably with a VPN, as long as it is offered by a trustworthy provider. This creates a secure connection between your device and a known network, such as your private home network. This way, you can surf the Internet from anywhere just as securely as at home.

Data Encryption

The encryption of the internal memory is set by default on modern smartphones. However, this internal memory can usually be expanded with SD cards. The data stored on such cards is not automatically encrypted. In case of theft, the memory cards can easily be removed from the device and read. If the memory card itself is internally encrypted, this significantly reduces the risk of data theft, but at the same time means that the memory card can only be read by the unlocked smartphone. For example, the memory card can no longer simply be read out via a card reader on the PC in order to copy the data externally.

It therefore makes much more sense to back up the data in the cloud with encryption software. In some cases, even entire SD cards can be encrypted and protected with a password. However, these solutions are usually not free of charge. When using chat apps, you should also always make sure that the messages and files sent are encrypted end-to-end by the app.

Damage Control in the Event of Loss or Theft

Sometimes you can’t prevent certain things from happening. That is why you should always be prepared for loss or theft. Some trusted software, sometimes even pre-installed, allows you to locate and even lock your device. Some programs can even completely erase the data on the device in case of emergency. To avoid data loss to the greatest extent possible, you should regularly do backups. This will make it much easier to cope with the loss of a mobile device.

Smartphones accompany us everywhere in our daily lives. They are true all-rounders and make our lives easier in many ways. However, they also keep a large amount of important and sensitive data that should be carefully protected. Yet the security risks associated with mobile devices are often underestimated. Users need to be well aware of these risks at all times. The protective measures mentioned in this post can minimize some of the risks, but ultimately it’s up to each individual to do the greatest effort to protect their devices. Stay informed, stay aware, and never let your device out of your sight.

Want to learn more about IT security? You can find an overview of all articles on this topic under the tag IT security.

 

Responsible for the content of this article is Stéphanie Bauens.

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