Mobile Device Security, Are You Doing Enough?

This week’s topic is Mobile Device Security, Are You Doing Enough?

The Tip
Most of us don’t think about it, but chances are your smart phone is more precious than your wallet or your keys, and in many cases, your actual computer. Although we all might think about it occasionally, most of us don’t do more than a 4-digit passcode and hope for the best.

Locked Smartphone

The Detail

With that in mind, here are some basic but important tips that will help keep your sensitive information secure, even in the event of a theft of your phone.

Always lock your phone with a password
One of the most basic but often overlooked tips is to secure your phone with a password. Swipe patterns are ok, but finger-trails easily reveal these. A 4-digit passcode is an improvement, but using a strong passphrase is the ideal protection. Even if your phone is stolen, this basic protection will stop most thieves from getting your data. Most phones can also be set to auto-erase with too many failed login attempts, if you need additional security.

Ensure your device locks itself automatically
If you setup password protection, but leave your phone unlocked on your desk for long periods of time, you’re not secure. Most phones are readily setup to lock automatically after a period of inactivity. Choose the shortest amount of time you are comfortable with. A couple minutes is appropriate, even if it seems a tiny bit inconvenient.

Keep your phone up-to-date
Update your OS and apps regularly. These updates often include important security and vulnerability updates. If you’re nervous about teething problems on the bleeding edge of updates, at least get the reminders, but don’t forget to eventually update. Minor version updates are almost always security related.

Only download apps from approved sources
Apple’s App Store and The Google Play Store take security seriously and do the best they can to watch for vulnerable apps. Don’t jailbreak your devices to get access to other apps, and read user reviews before downloading new apps. There is often good information there.

Install anti-virus software
Although not as widespread as on desktop computers, virus’ and other problem software still exist on mobile devices. Most major antivirus companies have apps for your mobile device.

Use discretion when downloading apps
It’s easy to get excited about the wealth of low-cost or free apps available. Most of us add apps of all sorts without too much research. Don’t downloads apps you don’t really need, and clean up your apps from time-to-time. Also, it’s important to see what permissions your apps are asking for. You can expect a mapping app will want to know your GPS location, but if an alarm clock wants access to your contacts database, you might want to treat that with extreme caution.

Stick to window-shopping on public WiFi
Public WiFi networks have popped up all over the place, and are very handy, but security on these networks is scarce at best, and non-existent typically. Be very careful what you do on public WiFi as the chances are pretty good that others may be watching network activity. In particular, avoid activities that convey a password or account or credit card number, unless you are absolutely sure you are using a secured connection.

If you have more questions about these topics, please contact UTS and we’d be happy to offer what guidance we can. There is also a wealth of information to be found using your favourite search engine.