How to Secure Your Mobile Phone: A Guide for Cyber Professionals

06/10/2020

Each year, the number of people using mobile phones all over the world rises yet again. In 2016, there were 2.5 billion smartphone users. In 2021, that number is expected to reach 3.8 billion. But this trend has a downside too; namely, more opportunities for cyberhackers to hack into mobile devices and steal private information.

With around 50% of the population of the world using a mobile phone, there is an incredible amount of sensitive, confidential data waiting to be hacked. This includes things like banking details, emails, health records, contacts, social media activity, and online purchase payments. As more of our daily activities and errands are conducted on mobile phones, these devices become central to the massive war going on in cyberspace.

There was an increase of 50% in the number of malware cyberattacks on mobile devices in 2019. This is mostly due to the massive rise of online banking via apps. Also, social media apps are a real concern when it comes to mobile privacy. Think of the increased concerns around privacy on the TikTok platform. Case in point: soldiers in the U.S. Army have now been banned from TikTok use.  

In National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and with the increased occurrence of mobile phones as a ripe target for would-be hackers, it is time to “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.” This is even more critical now as your personal information and identity may be at risk if you don’t take the necessary steps to secure and protect your mobile phone.

Smartphone Security: It’s Not a Game

One of the reasons why smartphones are such a hot target for cybercriminals is because they can be accessed in several ways. People are constantly downloading apps and software, often free ones, and many times these are not secure or trustworthy.

In addition, at any given time, most people will have apps running on their phones in the background without even realizing it. This is a hidden gateway for hackers to gain entry to the phone. With the rise of email use on mobile, hackers can use phishing and spam attacks to attempt to access mobile phone data.

Antivirus software companies, such as Kaspersky, who provide cyber defense solutions for mobile, are all too aware of the types of risks we face. They state that seven types of dangers are threatening those with unprotected mobile phones.

Some dangers are not just a threat to mobile; they also put desktop computers at risk. But some are specific to smartphones and need to be urgently addressed.

On a mobile phone, for example, there is the issue of app installation. Upon download, apps ask for the user’s permission to access various types of data on the phone or to carry out specific actions, such as accessing a contact list or phone camera. If the mobile user allows access for all requested permissions, this can create a gaping “hole” just waiting for hackers to enter, known as “data leakage.”

Data leakage occurs when a phone’s security measures are not strong enough, leading to unnecessary exposure of a user’s personal information and data. To avoid data leakage, the mobile phone user should only allow the permissions absolutely necessary for the running of the app. For instance, if an app asks for access to your camera, but you don’t intend to use the app to create videos, then do not grant the app access.

How to Make Your Mobile Phone Safe and Secure 

Although hacking techniques can be complex, the measures to protect your phone don’t have to be. All it takes is installing cybersecurity software and technologies, and a shift in the way you use your mobile device to incorporate more common sense.

Moreover, many mobile security and antivirus apps are free, with more sophisticated editions and upgrades available at a fee, so you don’t need to invest much at all to keep your phone safe.

Follow these hacks and tips to ramp up your smartphone protection:

Passwords Are the Key

The first measure you should take to ensure the security of your mobile device is to lock it via a password. Passwords are not just a jumble of letters and numbers; today, you can use fingerprints, facial recognition, and even eye (iris) recognition technologies.

You should also have separate passwords for each app on your phone—different from each other and from the phone’s main password—and of course, every password should be strong and of high quality.

Wherever possible, be sure to use two-factor authentication. First, you enter a password. Then the app sends a code to your phone via email or SMS. You must enter that code in order to get through the two verification steps. This adds another layer for the entry process, which makes it twice as much of a challenge for hacking attempts.

There is a move away from password-only security, being led by FIDO Alliance, who provide a more secure and seamless way to safely access apps and websites on mobile phones.

Another important tip: every now and again, you should change your passwords. This will keep hackers on their toes and make it harder for them to succeed.

Use Antivirus Software

Antivirus software is essential for any device that is internet-connected, and that includes mobile phones. The market is awash with mobile security apps and solutions. It’s simply a matter of doing the research and installing the one that best serves your security needs.

Antivirus software scans your phone at regular intervals to make sure it is clean and safe. However, there are also comprehensive scans that take longer, and you should run these every now and then to make sure your phone is thoroughly protected. There are always new threats and virus mutations popping up, so it’s vital that you always have the latest version of the antivirus software installed on your phone.

Never Connect to Open or Free WiFi Networks

This tip is the standard best practice for all computers and mobile devices. Public or open WiFi networks pose a particular threat to mobile devices, which are visible and exposed to anyone on the network. Instead of relying on WiFi, use your data plan to access the internet when you are out and about or without access to a secure network.

Another alternative is to install a VPN on your phone if you have no choice but to use an unprotected internet connection. This will keep your phone secure and hidden from hackers on public networks.

Never Engage With Suspicious Websites or Apps

There are almost 9 million apps available, and many of them are free. People are often tempted to download all kinds of fun-looking apps, but beware: hackers use them to gain unauthorized access to your mobile phone. Take care with the apps you install and the permissions you grant them.

In the same way that you wouldn’t visit a suspicious website or click on a strange-looking link, don’t fall into the trap of shady apps. Only go for apps or visit mobile websites that are genuine and reputable. Use the major app stores to download apps, such as App Store and Google Play.

Be cautious with the information you share via mobile websites and apps. And remember, do not give sensitive information or personal data to any apps, websites, or emails that you are unsure of or that seem inauthentic.

There’s More to Online Security than Mobile Phones

It’s not just your mobile phone that raises security concerns. Any of your devices that are connected to the internet are at risk of being hacked. The numerous connected devices in use today comprise the Internet of Things (IoT) and it is a goldmine for hackers. When cybercriminals access one device on the IoT, this opens up all the other devices connected to the network to the risk of hacking.

Hackers are already making their moves. There is an average of more than 5000 hacks every month on the IoT, and the number will only continue to rise.

The best way to keep hackers out of your connected devices is by creating a secure perimeter around them. That includes wearable tech, such as smartwatches, tablets, smart home systems, and more. Every device on the network should be secured, and that includes all your household members’ devices and children’s mobile devices too.

Don’t underestimate the crucial role of common sense in mobile phone security. Never connect with strangers online, and don’t visit sites you aren’t familiar with. Be alert to small hints and strange occurrences, such as phishing emails that have malicious links or pretend logins to lure you into providing sensitive data.

Also, keep your phone with you all the time, even in situations that seem safe, as you never know who or what is looking over your shoulder and trying to steal your confidential passwords and logins.

Look at it this way: your smartphone is a bit like your wallet, filled with vital personal data, and you shouldn’t leave either of them lying around! Just like a thief can steal money from your wallet, a hacker can steal your most valuable assets by accessing confidential information on your mobile phone. 

Another key to online security is education. By educating yourself and keeping updated with the latest security tactics and tools, you can protect your mobile phone, connected devices, and precious data. 

But cybersecurity education can give you much more than privacy. It can kickstart a whole new career!

A Career in Data Security Might Be For You

The world is becoming more and more connected every day, and there is no turning back. The Internet of Things and 5G mobile phones are just the latest in the march towards a fully digitized world. This means that the skills and expertise necessary to fight back against cybercriminals are changing and growing all the time.

As a result, there is an increasing demand for trained professionals in cybersecurity to stand at the frontlines of the battlefield, and it’s only growing larger each year. When you become proficient in cybersecurity techniques, you can learn how to protect your mobile phone and personal data, but you can also turn it into a challenging, dynamic, and profitable career.

Start on the road to a new future with our Cybersecurity Professional Program that gives you all the cyber skills you need to succeed, way beyond your smartphone.

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