CROMWELL -- Connecticut Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends smart device users devote as much time and money to protect their mobile phones and tablets as they do with their personal computers.
A growing number of consumers spend more time using their mobile devices than their personal computers. A number of aggressive malware developers are working diligently to discover ways to get malicious software inside mobile devices. Some smart phone owners are making it easy for hackers by failing to take even the most basic precautions.
“We have a tendency to consider our mobile devices primarily as telephones,” according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau spokesman Howard Schwartz. “A more accurate view is that a smart phone is really a portable computer that is capable of making telephone calls. Too many smart device users don’t understand or worry about existing and potential new threats to personal and financial information stored in their smart phones and tablet devices.”
According to one estimate, more than a half of smart device users don’t even use a password to lock their phones as they would with their personal computers. Unlike our home-based computers, we carry our most important information around with us for most of the day on our smart devices.
Our phones and tablets are exposed to even more threats in a public setting outside of our homes.
One risk involves using our mobile phones in a growing number of locations that offer complimentary Wi-Fi hotspots such as stores, malls, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and airports, to name a few. Cyber thieves use these hotspots that are often not password-protected to burrow into our phones and tablets.
Many users make hackers’ work more valuable because consumers use their phones to store login and password combinations, banking and other personal information. Our texts and email also can reveal personal information that could be used for fraud or to commit identity theft.
Some mobile phones also contain payment apps that are linked to our credit cards, and other apps that keep users logged in for days or months, or until we manually log out.
Smart devices are not immune to viruses and malware
Researchers have found malware in smart devices similar to what we they would detect in a personal computer.
One example is “ransomware.” Ransomware manifests itself as a popup screen that locks your device and “encrypts” (scrambles) its contents. The screen will have a telephone number to call where you are told to pay the ransom to receive a decryption key to restore access to your files. BBB and law enforcement recommend against paying the ransom because there is no guarantee the hackers will hold up their end of the deal, nor restore all of the data on your phone such as your call history, contacts, photos, messages and more. This makes a good case for regularly backing up your smart devices.
There are a number of measures we can take to build a security wall around our smart devices:
Invest in a security suite – That would include anti-malware, virus protection and other security tools similar to the ones available for personal computers.
Store important personal information somewhere else -There are apps that allow you to store passwords and other sensitive information in a remote location accessible from your phone or tablet.
Turn off services unless you need them - Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth all represent open doors for hackers. If you only turn them on when you need them, your device will be safer, and it will also increase battery life.
Download updates- Operation system and software updates are designed to improve functionality, however, they also close security loopholes when they are discovered.
Erase your tracks in a rented vehicle - If you connect your smartphone into a vehicle’s USB port, the entertainment system will have access to a considerable amount of information. When you bring back the car, make sure you delete your profile. Ask for help if you are not sure how to do so. If you want to charge your phone, it is safer to plug it into the vehicle’s lighter socket.