During the global pandemic, we have seen a huge rise in the use of mobile phones. People have become more digitally connected than ever before.
You can work online from home, shop, and perform internet banking transactions on your smartphone.
Unfortunately, cyber-attacks have equally skyrocketed during this period. They have increased their attacks in both frequency and scope. Here are a few things you can do to keep your smartphone safe from cyber attackers.
Avoid Using Free Public WiFi Networks or At Least Avoid Making Sensitive Transactions Using Public WiFi Networks
Public wifi in a restaurant or airport may seem like a nice perk but it poses a potential threat. It is often unsecured and allows hackers to seamlessly place themselves between your device and the Wi-Fi hotspot.
Opting for a wireless connection is often beneficial for increased speed or to save on data usage costs. This is why you may prefer it when available. Take note that anything you do online while using the open connection could be intercepted.
Thankfully, smartphones are equally well prepared to help mitigate this risk.
- Always try to switch off a wireless connection when it’s not in use. This will ensure that malicious parties can’t connect to your device without your knowledge, and help save your battery power. If your connection is intercepted every activity you do while connected is in the public domain.
- Avoid opening your personally identifiable information. Personal information such as emails, phone numbers, banking details, business data should be avoided when connected to a public network.
- Check your settings. Make sure to check your phone’s network security settings as it might be configured to automatically connect to a network when in close range.
- Use Virtual private networks (VPN). VPNs allow you to create secure connections to wireless networks over the internet. You can access region-restricted websites and shield your browsing activity from prying eyes.
- Use SSL connections. Without a VPN you can still add a layer of encryption to your connection. Be sure to enable the “Always use HTTPS” feature on websites that you frequently visit. Especially those that require your credentials.
- Invest in an unlimited data plan. Doing this will eliminate your need to access unsecured wifi networks. Your mobile device could also be set up as a hotspot to your computer reducing the need to use a VPN.
- Turn off your file sharing. It’s the small things we overlook. Do you need to have your file-sharing feature turned on when connected to wifi? If not please turn it off.
Regrettably, there are times when your only option is an unsecured, free public wifi hotspot. Understanding the risks will prevent you from falling victim to attack. Save yourself the stress of worrying about data theft by following these inexpensive and easy steps. You won’t regret it.
Do Not Open Suspicious URLs
If you receive an invitation by SMS to click on a URL from unknown numbers, first of all, find out who is calling by using a reverse phone number search.
Hackers have become more advanced over the decades. Spotting a scam message has become increasingly difficult and so is tracking them back to the source. With the help of the internet, it is, however, possible.
Several free search tools can help you find the details of your sender. Looking up contact numbers is not a pesky task and one way or the other you are guaranteed to get some information.
Below is a list of some services you could use to look up phone numbers.
Protect yourself from suspicious links by not opening them. The act of opening may cause you to compromise the security of your personally identifiable information(PII).
Delete the message immediately to prevent you from accidentally opening it in the future. Do not reply and report it.
If you are not sure if a message is authentic or not, go to the source. Visit an official website and contact them directly to enquire. It’s better to take the necessary precautions than to live to regret it later.
Know Your Apps and Keep Software Updated
Look over all the apps and services that are connected to your smartphone and accounts. Take the time to revisit your mobile app permissions and authorizations. Get rid of apps you no longer use to reduce risk.
Want to download a new app? Do a little research on the app and its developer. Carelessly downloading apps is an invitation for spyware, ransomware, and data leakage.
Researching what you’re downloading beforehand can prevent many of these attacks. Entering a developer’s name into a search engine could help raise red flags on suspicious software.
Not all apps are convenient tools or benign entertainment. That addictive game you downloaded might be fun, but it might also be collecting intimate details about you and sending them to advertisers or bad actors.
These apps request permissions and data access under the premise of improving the “app experience”. In reality, they’re mining data to sell. This leads to data leakage. At best, this scam results in invasive ads. At worst, your sensitive data could end up in the hands of criminals who use it to steal your identity.
Regularly update your software on your device when prompted. These updates usually include fixes to security vulnerabilities. They’re usually quick. Failing to run these updates can create an easy opening for eager hackers. This will not only shield your device from cybercriminals but increase its performance too.
If you tend to forget to update your software, turn on automatic updates for your apps. Take the extra step by installing an antivirus. Your number one reason to update is security.
Regularly Check Bank Statements and Mobile Charges
The vast majority of identity theft cases and cybercrimes usually involve financial fraud. It is important for you to regularly check your mobile charges, bank statements, and any other financial accounts you have.
Regularly scrutinizing your financial records goes beyond mobile device security. Make it a routine part of your security habits.
Even if you do not opt for online banking through an app or website, by identity theft a hacker can open an account in your name. Reduce the odds of becoming a victim to bank fraud in the following ways:
- Opt for fraud detection: Review your bank statements. Most banks offer push notifications whenever a transaction is carried out on your account. Be sure to enable this feature. This will alert you of any suspicious transactions that may occur and details on amount and location (where it was charged).
- Enable two-factor authentications: By adding a second layer of defense to your device you make it harder for criminals to access your data. For someone to hack your details they will need more than just your password or passcode. A one-time password or pin is valid for only one login session. Like everything in this world, it isn’t 100 percent foolproof. It does however put you many steps ahead of potential hackers.
- Avoid phishing emails: Unfortunately, smartphone users are more likely to quickly open up an email if they get an alert on their phone. This is as opposed to desktop users who purposefully sift through their inbox. The scam starts as an email that appears to be your bank or an individual representing them. It typically contains a dubious link and asks you to input some personal information. This may be a confirmation of account information. However, the email isn’t actually from anyone you are familiar with or an entity you?ve previously dealt with. All information you enter goes straight to the scammer. What happens right after that shouldn?t be a surprise to any of us.
- Using phone number search tools: So you receive an SMS from an unknown number. There?s an easy way to locate the sender. The internet just made things easier. These search tools will give you the specific information you are looking for. You should be able to get details on the name, city, state, country of the sender. Use the various search tools available for free online.
- Be sure to create strong & unique passwords: Switch things up and use different password variations for all your online activities. Let us say, for example, your bank suffers a data breach and your password is exposed. The cybercriminal may try the same password on another account of yours. Be discrete and avoid using information that is easily accessible to the public e.g pets or kids’ names. Consider getting a password manager to ensure login information is safe.
From using phone number search tools and installing good antimalware, there are many ways to keep your phone safe from cyberattacks. Many of us don?t have the knowledge, time, or resources to protect our identities online.
It?s very important to bear in mind that not all fraud or identity theft can be avoided altogether. It?s incumbent on you to take on the responsibility to avoid getting scammed. This article should be helpful in times of need, so keep it handy.
Ben is a Web Operations Executive at InfoTracer who takes a wide view from the whole system. He authors guides on entire security posture, both physical and cyber. Enjoys sharing the best practices and does it the right way!
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