Securing your tablet and smartphone

Think for a moment about how much of your life is on a tablet or smartphone. Personal information such as texts, emails, apps, photos, passwords, financial information, as well as work related information.

As time and technology move forward, tablets and smartphones become an item we cannot seem to live without. These devices have become a necessity in the workplace, especially for those people who travel frequently – you can even translate signage abroad or do videoconferencing. They’re convenient, easier to carry, have built-in cameras, thousands of handy apps, and even offer GPS technology. There’s no doubting the convenience these devices offer – but, here are a few things to be aware of whether you use these devices for personal use, work, or both.

Now, with all this great technology comes the risk should your device(s) be stolen or lost. Losing your smartphone can be very stressful, and costly. With this in mind, there are some relatively easy steps you should take to secure your devices so that the door is not left wide open for a hacker or thief to steal your valuable information.

  1. Set a passcode/password. A passcode is a basic multi-digit code. Without a passcode, anyone who has your device in hand can access everything. Many of the newer devices also offer an option to use a longer alphanumeric password. Immediately after you have set your passcode or password, you should turn on the auto-lock function and set it to as short a time frame as possible. Usually 2 – 5 minutes is recommended. It will save a little bit of battery life, and by shortening the window, it’s much less likely that someone will stumble upon it while it’s still powered on.
  2. Be App-Savvy. Installing apps from Amazon Appstore, Microsoft’s Windows Store, Apple iTunes, or Google Play is much safer. Bad Apps can be loaded with Malware which can infect your device and steal your information. Be leery of third party app stores as they often host malicious apps, and are usually disguised as more “popular” real apps.
  3. Read the app permissions instead of blindly accepting the terms and conditions. Is there a reason a game wants access to your camera, microphone, and contacts?
  4. Update the Software. Updates to your mobile OS and any apps on your tablet or smartphone often include security fixes and should be downloaded as soon as they are available.
  5. Beware of Public Wi-Fi. Always use caution when browsing the Web on a public Wi-Fi. Since your traffic is public, it can be captured.
  6. Don’t be Gullible. Immediately delete suspicious text messages from people you don’t know, don’t click on any embedded web links or call any unknown phone numbers. Scammers and spammers are increasingly targeting smartphone users, be it through text messages, emails or even phone calls pretending to be someone they’re not. This could lead to them locking your device and extorting money from you to unlock it (“ransomware”).
  7. Enable Remote Location and Wiping. Preventing someone else from gathering your sensitive data is the most important task you have. One piece of good news is that the percentage of smartphone theft has decreased over the past few years thanks to the increased number of “kill switches” that make it harder to wipe and resell them. If your device is lost or stolen, tracking apps can tell you the location of your device. These types of apps can also let you wipe your sensitive or business data remotely. A remote wipe is similar to a factory reset; it erases all the data on a smartphone or tablet.
  8. Consider Antivirus. For those of you who are Android users, it’s highly recommended to protect your mobile data with security software. Not only do these apps protect your device from viruses and other malware, but it will lock down your privacy settings, scan apps and files for threats, and some solutions can snap a photo of someone attempting to log into your stolen phone via the front-facing camera, and send the image to you.
  9. Data Backups. Backing up data on your smartphone or tablet is relatively simple and it is something that should be done in the event the device is stolen, lost, or simply stops working. By using automatic online backups stored in the cloud or backing up data by syncing your device to your PC or office network are good options to help secure your device.

Regardless of which smartphone you use, it’s critical to prevent your personal (and professional) information from falling into the wrong hands. Even if your device isn’t lost or stolen, your data could still be accessible by a remote thief if not properly protected. No system or protective measure is completely foolproof, but the steps outlined above will make your device much safer.