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7 Tips for Keeping Your Smartphone Secure

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Your smartphone is no longer just a phone — it’s a high-tech communication device and computer. While mobile malware is still relatively rare, smartphones are increasingly vulnerable to malicious software. According to mobile security firm Lookout, mobile malware increased 75 percent in the U.S. in 2014, with ransomware dominating the threat list.

Far more significant is the risk that a mobile device will be lost or stolen — along with the data stored on it. Given the increased use of personal mobile devices for business purposes, this creates significant potential for a security breach.

Yet users remain surprisingly cavalier about mobile device security. According to a study by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and McAfee, 72 percent of Americans have never installed data protection applications or security software on their smartphones.

Regardless of the brand or operating system, there are a number of basic security measures you should take to ensure the safety of valuable information:

  • Set up the screen-lock function. This feature locks the smartphone after it’s been sitting inactive for a period of time, and requires you to enter a password or PIN to unlock it. This is one of the easiest functions to set up yet it can prevent people from easily accessing personal data if the phone is lost or stolen.
  • Download a remote location/lock/wipe application. These apps can remotely locate, lock or wipe a device if it is lost or stolen. Remote locking ensures that anyone who finds or steals the phone won’t be able to access anything inside without the proper PIN or password. In a worst-case scenario, remote wiping clears all the data so private information won’t fall into the wrong hands.
  • Back up data. This can be done with a product or application, a cloud service or simply by copying contacts, documents, pictures and personal information to your computer.
  • Install an antivirus app. Consider using mobile security antivirus software — especially with Google’s Android OS. As the market-leading mobile OS, Android has become the biggest target for cybercriminals. Some security experts estimate that as many as one-third of all Android apps contain some form of malware.
  • Download apps from reputable sources. It is safer to use application marketplaces provided by the carrier or phone vendor than to download apps directly from the web. Some sites have hosted repackaged versions of popular mobile apps that include spyware. Malware and spyware can still sneak into marketplaces, however, so be careful, especially with applications from unknown developers that have poor ratings or low download numbers.
  • Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when unneeded. Wi-Fi hotspots and Bluetooth create avenues for public attacks. Turning off these features not only improves security but conserves battery life. When Bluetooth is used, make sure it is in “non-discoverable” mode. When using Wi-Fi, try to use an encrypted network or VPN to prevent hackers from “sniffing” data out of the air.
  • Keep the OS up to date. As with a computer, a smartphone’s operating system must be kept up to date. Although updates sometimes include features that may seem unnecessary, it is still a good idea to install them because they typically include security patches or improvements.

At ICG, we’re concerned about keeping all of your devices and data secure. Let us help you develop a security and data protection strategy to safeguard critical business information.

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