Things have progressed to the point where most people are now aware of what cybersecurity is. Both business owners and regular people have learned that it’s critical to take precautions with their online accounts. But one essential element tends to get overlooked in this, and it’s something everyone uses — the smartphone.
Everyone uses smartphones for everything. People rely on them for both work and personal life. Not to mention they carry these devices everywhere almost every second of the day — and location tracking is usually on.
Now imagine information from your phone getting into the hands of the wrong people. It happens more often too. Criminals refocus their efforts on these and other peripheral devices. On average, security tools blocked around 10,573 malicious mobile apps per day in 2018. But it takes one that gets through.
That’s the reason why smartphones have become such essential devices to protect. So here are five of the most underrated smartphone cybersecurity tips that everyone should know about.
#1 App Permissions are Powerful
Whenever someone downloads a new app, they usually give the app permissions a cursory scan (or no glance at all) before accepting them. Apps are one of the main ways that criminals get access to a smartphone via malware and vulnerable bugs. App permissions play a big role in that.
Without invasive permissions, an app pretty much can’t have access to most of the important stuff on the phone. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. But these often take advantage of Android or iOS vulnerabilities.
So always check app permissions and don’t allow any that seems unnecessary. If you are going to use the app and the permission is necessary for it to work, then you can enable it while the app is in use. But don’t forget to rescind those permissions again afterward.
#2 VPNs Do What Data Providers Can’t (Or Won’t)
Connecting to the internet will always pose some risk. The only way to be 100% safe is to disconnect permanently. Obviously, that isn’t a solution. So instead of hoping that nothing wrong ever happens, people are taking matters into their own hands. They start using security tools like virtual private networks (VPNs).
A VPN protects the connection of a smartphone (and any other device) to the internet by encrypting and anonymizing it. That way, even if hackers do take an interest, they can’t access the information sent over the network. It’s for this reason that VPN services have exploded in popularity and number these last few years.
There are many excellent VPN services available out there that support both Android and iOS. Shop around a bit and find one that does a great job but isn’t too expensive. Avoid the free ones — if it’s free, then ask how they’re making money (answer: it’s usually with people’s data).
#3 Two-Factor Authentication is a Life-Saver
Most apps and accounts that support two-factor authentication (2FA) these days. Plus, some apps add 2FA to those that don’t support it. Once activated, two-factor authentication asks for an extra verification (like a one time pin) that you get on a designated device or account. No one can log into the account unless they pass that verification.
It’s an easy (though not a foolproof) way of keeping accounts safe during data breaches. Even if criminals get hold of login details, they can’t access an account with 2FA activated. They need direct access to the device for that.
#4 Updates Exist for an Important Reason
Both app and operating system updates contain much-needed security patches. Yes, the main reason for upgrades is to fix bugs and add functionality, but security is a primary reason too. Developers create security updates to plug known vulnerabilities. They also futureproof the device against anticipated attacks.
Therefore, it’s vital that you install these updates, and on time too. Enable automatic updates when possible. If not, don’t forget to check to see if new ones are available. It can mean the difference between becoming the victim of a system exploit and staying safe.
#5 App Stores are Full of Malware
Official app stores, like Google Play and the App Store, are much more reliable than third-party marketplaces. They’re not perfect by any means, but they take steps to scan apps and protect users, at least. Other app stores don’t bother that much. They usually don’t vet the apps that make it onto their stores, either. Thus, be careful when downloading apps from anywhere other than official marketplaces. And, once again, be attentive when checking the app permissions.
That’s a Wrap! These five tips may seem obvious to some, but they’re still not widespread knowledge. And given how many smartphone users there are worldwide (about 3.5 billion people), there are a lot of defenseless people. Don’t be one of them — follow these safety tips starting today!