How secure is your smartphone? How secure is your smartphone?

How secure is your smartphone?

Tips for protecting your smartphone and tablet        

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With millions of apps, new models of smartphones and tablets entering the market each month and ever faster mobile access to the web, mobile phones have nowadays become an extension of our body, a ubiquitous object that has become part of our daily lives, making activities that just a few years ago were unthinkable a reality.

But the idea of a phone with no keypad boasting advanced multimedia features and constant access to internet services became a reality not so very long ago. In addition to traditional phone traffic, mobile devices currently manage huge volumes of sensitive data, accounts accessing services through apps and information relating to our private lives including texts, memos, chats and photos.

As well as being at risk of being stolen or lost, mobile devices have thus become the target of hackers and attackers.

To protect our privacy, prevent increasingly frequent cyber attacks and defend ourselves against data fraud and theft, we can no longer ignore the question of security on our smartphones and tablets.

Useful tips to keep your mobile devices secure

We’ve put together some useful tips and guidelines to help keep your device secure and in particular to:

  • improve protection against the access of data stored on your mobile device
  • limit the exposure of personal data and, where possible, control how it is used by apps
  • limit attacks via the network interfaces contained in the device
  • monitor the apps you’ve downloaded.

Here are our 10 useful tips. But before we get going, an important bit of advice: always buy original devices and do not modify the in-built control mechanisms – rooting  or jailbreak to use the lingo – as you’ll irreversibly compromise the security of the device.

  1. Lock the screen: it may seem incredible but the majority of smartphone and tablet users do not lock the screen of their device. Controlling access with a protection code prevents criminals from accessing your data if your device is stolen or if you leave your phone unattended. To lock your screen, go to settings, then “lock screen” and add the code you want to use (preferably alphanumeric containing at least 8 characters). It’s also a good idea to select “request code” and choose “automatically” or “after 1 minute” so that the phone immediately locks before somebody can tamper with it.
  2. Use a PIN for your SIM card to prevent others from making unauthorised calls.
  3. Set up a remote control service on your device (using apps such as Find My iPhone). If your device is lost you can locate it, transfer the data stored on it and restore factory settings so that saved information cannot be accessed by anyone who found or stole it.
  4. Disable geo-localisation: services using geo-localisation are useful and fun but, at the same time, they can be used by criminals to find out where you are at any moment, track your movements on and offline and use the information to break into your home or steal sensitive data. Prevent this risk by going into your general settings and choosing to disable geo-localisation or selecting which apps show your location.
  5. Disable NFC (if supported on your device) when not in use.
  6. Be careful with Bluetooth: using Bluetooth is like opening a “door” to the outside world, enabling anyone to access your private information, such as your contacts, text messages, photos and saved files, or carry out operations without your knowledge. We therefore advise you to: 
    - keep Bluetooth switched off: only turn it on when it is actually in use and use the invisibility setting so your device won’t be detected by others in the area, but you can continue using some features, like the Bluetooth headset or speakerphone
    - personalise your device name from that standard name used for all phones;
    - use an internet connection that is protected by a password or PIN
  7. Be careful with Wi-Fi, particularly public and open networks. In general we advise users to disable the Wi-Fi interface, Wi-Fi Direct and Router Wifi features when not in use and to not connect automatically to Wi-Fi networks. In particular we advise againstconnecting to open Wi-Fi networks. Although incredibly useful, you’ve got to be very careful as most of the information sent is not encrypted and can therefore be intercepted. It is therefore better to connect to secure Wi-Fi networks and if you really need a connection, choose a network that asks you to register before surfing.
  8. Download updates for your operating system and apps: updates are essential for keeping criminals at bay. Make it easy for yourself by activating update notifications or automatic updates. In terms of your apps, here are a few things you can do: do not download apps from unknown sources, read the access requested by an app before and after you download it and check its reliability before downloading.
  9. Be careful with your passwords. If you can’t memorise your countless PINs, passwords and codes it’s not a good idea to save them to your tablet or smartphone on, for example, a memo that can be accessed by anybody. There are apps available that can stop you making this mistake. They store PINs and passwords in a file where they are encrypted preventing unauthorised persons from accessing them. 
  10. Last but not least, delete everything. Lots of us forget to do it, but it’s essential for keeping your device secure. If you want to sell your smartphone or tablet delete all its content. But before you do so, don’t forget to save all your data!