Smart phone protected by a seatbelt

Your Mobile Devices Won't Secure Themselves

We love our devices! We may even sleep with them veeery nearby. But do we care for our phones and tablets like we should? The Pew Research Center tallied some revealing stats about our lackluster smartphone cyber-mindfulness. By their account, only 22% of smartphone users regularly employ basic security precautions like screen locks and app updates.

That’s unfortunate, because phones are enticing scam targets (cases in point described here and here) for several reasons:

  • Mobile devices contain a lot of data (contacts, account numbers, photos, email messages, etc.)
  • Mobile apps can provide access to accounts and account information
  • Unsecured wireless connections provide ample potential for compromise
  • Mobile display screens limit our visibility to important social engineering red flags
  • We’re often using our phones at times and places when we’re distracted and less prone to cautious clicking (watching TV, at the game, out to eat . . . )

This month, it’s time to show the love and buckle up our devices for safety! We’ll keep it quick and easy. Let’s get started. Now. Take out your phone (or tablet) and . . .

  1. Enable the passcode or fingerprint lock and set the lockout time to 30 seconds or less.
  2. Engage the encryption setting (on your Android or iPhone) to further protect data.
  3. Set up remote wiping (on your Android or iPhone) so if your phone is ever lost or stolen, you can erase the data to keep it out of the hands of criminals.
  4. Install an anti-virus app like Avast, a good free option that works for both iOS and Android devices.
  5. Back up phone data to your phone’s associated cloud service or your computer hard drive to preserve photos, videos, apps and other important files.
  6. Update apps (on your Android or iPhone) to ensure you’ve got the most recent fixes for security holes. Repeat regularly (and resist the temptation to jailbreak your phone or upload apps from outside your app store).
  7. The next time you’re prompted, update the operating system . . .  promptly!


Now that your device is clean and protected (what a great feeling!), drive it with care (but, you know, not while driving). Remember these “rules of the mobile road”:

  • Watch out for social engineering scams like spoofed banking apps, phishing links or attachments, phony texts trying to collect personal data (see below for some info about “Smishing”).
  • Don’t click until you’ve checked where links are really going. On iPhones and Androids, press and hold the link to reveal the actual target address. If it’s not going where you expected, don’t click it.
  • Use public wi-fi carefully. It's inherently insecure, so avoid making financial transactions and transmitting sensitive data while using public wi-fi.
  • Know how to track a lost phone (whether it’s your Android or iPhone)
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