10 Security Best Practices for Mobile Device Owners

Don’t be alarmed by these statistics. More importantly, don’t become a statistic yourself. I’m sharing a few factoids here to help protect you, as one of the nearly 4.6 billion mobile device users out there (Gartner).

  • Cybercrimes including hacking and theft cost American businesses over $55 million per year (Ponemon Institute)
  • Every month, one in four mobile devices succumbs to some type of cyber threat (Skycure)
  • Last year in the United States alone, over five million smartphones were stolen or lost (Consumer Reports)

Who is responsible for such mayhem? Hackers, of course, and online thieves all over the world.

But who is responsible for protecting your device? You are.

As IT and Networking professionals, we can manage mobile device security around the clock, seven days a week, 365 days a year, but it is you, the mobile device owner or user, who ultimately determines the relative health of your smartphone or tablet and the level of security you want to experience.

To protect your mobile device, follow these recommended best practices:

  1. Lock your device with a passcode: One of the most common ways your identity can be stolen is when your phone is stolen. Lock your device with a password, but do not use common combinations like 1234, 1111. On Android phones you can establish a swipe security pattern. Always set the device to auto-lock when not in use.
  2. Choose the Right Mobile OS for Your Risk Tolerance: Open source integrations, price, and app selection might guide you toward Android or Windows phones; however, Apple devices running iOS are generally more secure. A recent NBC Cybersecurity News article revealed that Google’s Android operating system has become a primary target for hackers because “app marketplaces for Android tend to be less regulated.” Hackers can more easily deploy malicious apps that can be downloaded by anyone. As an example, the article reported that over 180 different types of ransomware were designed to attack Android devices in 2015. If you’re an Android owner, fear not. Consumers who choose Android can still remain safe by being aware of the vulnerabilities and actively applying the other tips in this article.
  3. Monitor Links and Websites Carefully: Take a moment to monitor the links you tap and the websites you open. Links in emails, tweets, and ads are often how cybercriminals compromise your device. If it looks suspicious, it’s best to delete it, especially if you are not familiar with the source of the link. When in doubt, throw it out.If you have Android and your friend has an iOS device, and you both have a link you are not sure about opening, open the link on iOS first. This practice allows you to check out the link while lowering your exposure to risks including malware.
  4. Regularly Update Your Mobile OS: Take advantage of fixes in the latest OS patches and versions of apps. These updates include fixes for known vulnerabilities. (To avoid data plan charges, download these updates when connected to a trusted wireless network.) Every few days, and especially whenever you hear news about a new virus, take the time to check for OS updates or app patches.In 2016, an iOS 9.x flaw resulted in a vulnerability for iPhone users where simply receiving a certain image could leave the device susceptible to infection. Apple pushed out a patch. A year ago a similar flaw was detected on Android devices; however, the risk to users was significantly greater, impacting 95 percent of nearly one billion Android devices. An expected 90-day patch was late. Meanwhile, the flaw allowed hacking to the maximum extent possible including gaining complete control of the phone, wiping the device, and even accessing apps or secretly turning on the camera. Don’t ignore those prompts to update!At this point you may be asking, “Do I need a separate anti-virus app, especially if I use an Android device?” To answer that question, balance your need for security against how much risk you plan on taking with your device. Do you often use public wireless networks and make poor choices with the links you open? For now, you may not need an anti-virus app; however, some early industry trends are showing more anti-virus apps on the horizon.
  5. Do Not Jailbreak Your Smartphone: Reverse engineering and unauthorized modification of your phone (jailbreaking) leaves your phone vulnerable to malware. Even jailbreaking an iOS device leaves it open to infections. If your cousin already customized your device for you, it’s not too late. Restore the OS through the update process or check with an authorized reseller.

For the rest of the tips please read my work blog:


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