With most of us using a variety of connected devices for our professional and personal lives, maintaining the security of our data involves protecting a range of phones, computers and other gadgets as well as being careful about how we use those devices.
In a growing number of instances, malicious software and unsafe connections threaten to expose our personal data for financial fraud, privacy invasions and other undesirable effects.
Given the growing number of types of potential attacks, going online today involves constant vigilance to make sure our online explorations don’t lead us down pathways that prove dangerous to our data.
Not surprisingly, the fast-growing security threats involve mobile devices. According to security pros, the most common security challenges for mobile devices involve fake or malicious apps designed to steal log-in credentials for financial accounts and other personal data, harvest contact data for future attacks, or rack up unauthorized charges for premium websites or services.
In the most dangerous instances, software known as ransomware encrypts your device’s data until you pay a ransom for the information to be unlocked.
Effective security practices you should follow with phones and tablets include:
- Use the device’s auto-lock and password features. If you leave your device unattended, an automatic lock can protect you by preventing hackers from accessing your information or changing the passwords to your accounts.
- Be sure to only download apps from official sources. Unauthorized apps may have malicious software designed to steal personal and financial data.
- Keep your system and software up to date. Updates often fix known security issues, so delaying updates can leave you vulnerable.
- Use the location feature sparingly. If an application asks for access to the GPS system on your device, considered whether it’s really necessary for the application. If not, deny the request.
- Turn your devices and accessories off when they’re not in use. Bluetooth is a great example of a technology that is better left off when you’re not using it.
- Physically protect your devices. One of the worst-case scenarios is that someone steals your device altogether and has access to all of the information on it. Carrying your device in a holster or the same place all the time can help.
- If available, register for a service like Apple’s “Find My iPhone” or Android Device Manager that lets you lock, track and erase your device. If your device does get into the wrong hands, this can save you a lot of additional problems.
- Dispose of your device properly. To make sure that information on your device cannot be recovered, you’ll need to completely clear the device.
As hackers turn their attention to mobile devices, they’re not overlooking traditional threats to information security that use laptops and, in some instances, desktop computers to launch attacks.
Since the majority of security threats are delivered via email or web browsing, it’s important to be careful with any device connected to the Internet. Some important steps to take include:
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and keep it up to date.
- Keep your operating system and internet browser up to date. Software updates frequently include security fixes, so the longer you take to update your software, the longer you are vulnerable to known threats. Enabling automatic updates can make this process simpler.
- Take passwords seriously. Password management software can help tremendously. If you’d rather create passwords manually, choose a mix of letters and special characters, resist making it easy to guess, and don’t use the same password for every online service.
- Use fake information for those security questions you have to answer. Information like your mother’s maiden name is relatively easy to find out, so rather than using the real thing and risking someone resetting your password, choose a fake answer instead.
- Download cautiously. A file may not be what it seems, so only download files from trusted sources and with known file types.
- If you upload photos to a social network, disable the automatic location feature. Location data can pinpoint users with unsettling accuracy.