If your smartphone is hacked, it’s like someone robbing your house. Your smartphone doesn’t just hold your valuables; it signals to intruders which of your valuables are most important to you. If something is on a phone that is always with you, it is by definition important. This massive invasion of privacy is a gross violation of your privacy, and it may take a while to figure out exactly what is missing. So how to protect smartphone?
Smartphones, small devices that are constantly online, sending and receiving signals, are always a target for criminals. To keep your phone and its contents safe and sound, you need to develop a strategy to protect your personal information. Here are some tips on how to protect your smartphone from hackers and intruders. The examples below are taken from the iPhone 12 Mini running iOS 14.3 and the LG V40 ThinQ running Android 10.
Update the OS and apps
Development companies are constantly updating software, and many updates and bug fixes include security improvements that help protect your smartphone from data breaches and intrusions or close vulnerabilities, making it harder for hackers to break in. Whenever an update for your smartphone’s operating system or for any of the apps you use, install it immediately, or better yet, set all apps to install automatically.
Avoid public Wi-Fi
Everyone should be aware of the dangers of using public Wi-Fi, because free Wi-Fi in malls, cafes, airports or any other public places is the season for all kinds of Internet mischief. Try to use only your personal cellular connection if possible, and turn off the Wi-Fi on your cell phone altogether when you’re in a public place. If that’s not possible, use a VPN app – a utility that tunnels network communications through an encrypted connection. But choose carefully – not all VPNs are of equal quality. Also, turn off Bluetooth when you’re away from home, unless you’re wearing a smartwatch that needs it.
Lock your smartphone
Always use a four- or six-digit code to log into your device. Passcodes may not be very convenient, but peace of mind dictates that if your smartphone falls out of your pocket while you’re trying out new couches at Ikea, the first person who picks it up shouldn’t be able to find out your life history from emails, contacts, photos and banking information. Consider setting an even longer password consisting of both numbers and letters. Not a big fan of passwords? No worries. Fingerprint scanning and Face ID are easy and quick alternatives to entering numbers. Make sure personal information apps are password-protected as well.
Keep your cell phone number private
Just as you wouldn’t share your old landline number with anyone who asked for it, you shouldn’t automatically offer your cell phone number to any app that asks you for it. The more places that have your number, the more vulnerable you are to SMS hacking and fraud, and even to intrusion into secure 2FA accounts. Consider adding a second line to your cell phone. Google Voice is a great way to protect your phone number from online intruders, as are apps like Sideline, Line2 and Hushed that allow you to add a second line to your cell phone.
Don’t share information on social media
While it’s okay to use your real name on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, it’s not a good idea to share a lot of candid information about yourself on social media. Avoid giving your hometowns, specific addresses, places of employment, phone numbers, last names and other information that hackers can use to spy on you. These days, Facebook allows you to hide a huge amount of information about yourself through settings and privacy tools, including most photos, friend lists and more. Curate and organize your feed to get rid of old, outdated information that might tell more about you than you’d like. Revoke permissions and delete Facebook apps that you no longer need or use. It’s even better to use Facebook on your home computer rather than on your phone, if at all possible.
Don’t keep personal information, documents or files on your phone and limit geo-tagged photos in Camera Roll or Gallery. Get in the habit of keeping your phone relatively clean by transferring images and documents to your computer and deleting sensitive emails from financial, employer and health-related accounts.
Use two-factor authentication
Here’s another nasty security measure that most people can’t stand. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is hated because it requires extra steps, and it’s really frustrating if you forget your phone or watch is around. But like passwords, it serves a purpose by providing an extra layer of protection in case someone gets hold of your password.
Use strong passwords
Everyone hates passwords. But when it comes to their purpose, don’t take half measures. Only use strong passwords that are not easily cracked by hackers. They should contain at least 16-20 characters with a combination of letters and numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and symbols. Brute force password crackers can break many strong passwords, but making it easy for hackers to use your birthday, your pet’s nickname or the same password for everyone is a really terrible idea.
There are plenty of strong password generators online, so you don’t have to come up with them yourself. Change your passwords every six months or a year, or as soon as you find out about a data breach of any program you use. And a few words about security issues: Lie. Don’t answer security questions honestly and change your answers for different settings. For example, you can use a password-style answer consisting of letters and numbers instead of your first pet name for such questions. That way, it will be harder for hackers to figure out how to hack your phone based on publicly available information about you online.
Beware of spam and phishing emails
One of the easiest ways for hackers to get into your phone and access your information is through your inbox. Phishing scams are designed to trick you into giving up access to your accounts. Don’t click on links in promotional emails, open suspicious attachments or run app updates offered through emails. Don’t try to access your financial accounts through random emails; instead, go directly to the financial institution’s website and log in with the correct username and password.
Use your device’s built-in security features
They’re called “smartphones” for a reason. If your phone is lost or stolen, you can prevent damage by using device tracking services like Find My iPhone and Find My Device for Android, which can locate your missing phone on a map and, in some cases, automatically erase it. These services can also make your phone ring to help you locate a device that you temporarily lost. You can also set your phone to erase all information after a certain number of incorrect password attempts.
Use an anti-virus app
Hackers prefer to use malware to steal passwords and account information. But this can be fought with smartphone antivirus apps – some of which are offshoots of popular desktop apps such as Avast, McAfee and Panda. Smartphone app variants offer increased security, ensuring that the apps, PDFs, images and other files you download aren’t infected with malware before you open them.
Manage app permissions
Check the apps on your phone to determine if they have more privileges than they need. You can allow or deny permissions such as access to the camera, microphone, contacts, or location. Keep track of what permissions you’ve given to apps and override unnecessary permissions. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy, where you’ll see a list of all the apps and the permissions you’ve given them. The exact path to app permissions on an Android device depends on the device, but on Google Pixel you’ll find them in Settings > Apps and Notifications > Advanced > Permissions Manager or on Samsung Galaxy in Settings > Apps > App Permissions (using the three vertical dots in the upper right corner).
You need to be vigilant and be prepared for the worst: make sure your phone is backed up to protect important documents and images in case your phone is lost or stolen. We have a guide to backing up your Android smartphone as well as backing up your iPhone. At least that way, if your phone is lost or erased, you can still access those valuable photos or files. If your iPhone is backed up, you can program it to be automatically deleted after 10 consecutive unsuccessful password attempts.
Know where your apps are coming from
Don’t just download any old app to your phone. While the iPhone app selection is limited to Apple’s App Store, which checks all apps sold on that platform, on Android it is easier to download apps “from the side,” which means simply downloading and installing them from sources other than the Google Play Store. However, you’ll have to dig into your settings and allow it. The best way to avoid malware on Android is to stick to the selection of apps available in the Google Play Store that are verified by Google. Never download apps through text messages, as this is a known method that hackers use to inject malware directly into your phone.
Beware of public chargers
Only charge your phone from verified USB ports, such as those on your computer or in your car. Using USB charging ports in public places like airports, public libraries or coffee shops exposes your personal data to cyberattacks by lurking cybercriminals. If you’re traveling, take an outlet adapter with you in addition to the USB cable. The USB adapter will also protect any personal information on your phone from cyberattacks.
While jailbreaking allows iPhone owners to access apps and programs not available on the Apple App Store (which is a true ban in Apple country), it also exposes your phone to the risk of viruses and malware. If you decide to jailbreak your phone, you will be out of favor with Apple support. It will void your warranty, and Apple staff probably won’t be able to help you if something bad happens.
When you actively take security measures, you can be sure that you’ve taken all possible measures to protect your personal and sensitive data from cyberattacks. This makes it much less likely that thieves will be able to steal your identity, infiltrate your privacy, swindle your money, control your phone, and generally make your life miserable.