December is the month of gifts and celebrations. Many of us will be unwrapping new devices this holiday season and the last thing that we want is for those devices to become susceptible to viruses and malware.
We use our smartphones for everything — web browsing, scrolling social media, checking our emails and making online purchases. However, the rising popularity of smartphones has quickly spurred increased and targeted attacks on mobile users. Mobile security and antivirus software is not as widely available as security software for PCs and laptops.
The first step to protecting yourself is understanding the common threats that smartphone users face.
Smartphone Security Threats
A data breach occurs when personal information is accessed without authorisation, lost or stolen. In our current digital age, data breaches are becoming more and more common as cybercriminals target organisations in the hope of stealing large records of personal data.
When it comes to smartphones, apps are the main cause of data breaches — particularly free apps that often ask for broad permissions in terms of the phone functions they can access.
Ensure you research apps carefully before you download them and regularly delete apps that you no longer use.
No one wants to use their valuable mobile data when they have the option of free Wi-Fi, however unsecured networks can be very dangerous to your online security.
Free Wi-Fi networks, such as the kind that you might connect to at a local cafe, are often unencrypted. This means that anyone can spy on your activities, discover your location and steal private information.
Next time you’re shopping and need to transfer money between accounts, consider using your mobile data rather than logging onto the centre’s Wi-Fi or even better, download a VPN to use when browsing on a public network.
Hackers often set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots or access points, usually in high traffic public spaces such as coffee shops or libraries. They will give these networks common names such as “Free Wi-Fi Coffee-shop” so that people are fooled into connecting.
You may be asked to create an account by providing an email address and password. If the users’ login credentials are the same as that of their email service or an e-commerce account, they risk compromising their secure information unknowingly.
If you are in the position where you have to connect to free Wi-Fi, never provide personal information or at the very least, create a unique password.
Protecting You and Your Phone
There are several steps you should take to protect your new device, from the moment it is removed from the box.
Always Keep Your Phone Updated
Updates contain new features and security patches, which is why it is very important to regularly update your phone. Manufacturer security settings are your first line of protection against incoming threats.
Install Antivirus Software
Antivirus software screens your smartphone for malware and viruses, alerting the user should they visit a malicious website or download a malware ridden attachment. Security software is the most effective method of virus protection.
Only Install Applications from Known Sources
Installing applications from unknown sources is not recommended as it may contain viruses that can harm your new phone. Instead, always download applications from the official App store or Google Play.
Read and Understand Application Permissions
Applications usually ask permission to access certain information. Some data is necessary for them to access in order to function, like your gallery for a photo editing app. However, some ask for a wide variety of permissions that the application does not require. Be aware of this and avoid such apps.
Being able to identify threats is the first step in protecting any device. Backup your knowledge with effective mobile security and antivirus software and enjoy all that your new phone has to offer!
Bridget is a writer and editor, currently living in Melbourne. She is a copywriter for Newpath Web and loves working with words of all shapes and sizes. When not playing around with punctuation and grammar, she enjoys travelling and curating her Spotify playlists.