Smartphone Safety

Keeping your phone safe online
IT support Brisbane

A vast abundance of information can be found on our phones. Specifically, they hold an inordinate amount of information about ourselves and the way we live our lives. From banking information, location data, eating and shopping habits, correspondence and, with the emergence of smart wear, even our heart rates are accessible on our phones. Some have even compared them to houses based on the detailed information they contain about us. A 2002 study actually found that when people were shown the rooms of other people who they had never met, they could accurately guess the personality traits of that person (all except neuroticism at least).

It begs the question of what a person may figure out about us if they were given access to our phones. For many of us, the thought of this may be as scary, if not more so, than that of a stranger seeing the insides of our houses. This is somewhat unsurprising, based on the seemingly endless slew of news headlines highlighting the prevalence of cyber criminals taking peoples’ private information from phones, computers and cloud storage. It is a pretty clear message really, BE SCARED OF WHAT YOUR PHONE COULD DO, but maybe it should be about what your phone could be made to do. After all, smartphone safety would probably be a pretty confusing phrase in a world without hackers. This begs the question, how do you make sure your phone isn’t being made to do something you don’t want it to do?

Well firstly, you’ll never be able to make ‘sure’ of this. Any type of computer is made to be somehow accessible, and people are bound to misuse that access in some way. It’s like driving a car, or owning a house; sometimes cars crash, even when driven by the best drivers, and sometimes houses get broken into, despite having good security. Likewise, there is always a small possibility that your phone can get hacked and data will be stolen. The trick is to minimise that likelihood, and if a piece of information is too sensitive, don’t keep it on your phone. Luckily, our IT support team have provided some pointers on how to keep your phone safe online. The following 5 pointers could save you a lot of trouble down the road, enjoy:

Smartphone Safety Tips from KeyTech IT Support Brisbane

  1. Adjust your privacy and security settings, or at the very least look at and try to remember them. These settings control what “permissions” apps have on your phone, and what information they have access to. Think of this as the doors inside your house, if you have someone inside like a tradie doing renovations, you’re likely to close any doors that lead into rooms you don’t trust them in. You would, however, leave open the doors they need open in order to complete the work you want them to do.
  2. Set your apps to update over Wi-Fi automatically. Apps that are not up to date become more of a risk, the longer they are not updated. Yes, we all get fed up with updates from time to time, but many times app developers will update their app when a security vulnerability is found so that people on the latest version are safe. There is no protection for old versions of software. It’s like changing your locks if your keys and wallet get lost or stolen. You wouldn’t feel safe if someone out there knew where you lived and how to get in, and it really should not be any different with a smartphone.
  3. Whenever the app or service allows it, try to use 2-factor or multi-factor authentication. Basically, this stops people from getting into your account by having them enter a code that displays on your phone or having a notification show up on your phone that asks you to verify the log-in request. On mobile apps, it is more likely that the verification will be a text message with a code you can then enter into the app. Thus verifying that it is your phone (or a phone with your phone number) signing in. This is like having a lock and an alarm with a code at the entrance to your house. You not only have to know something (the password or alarm), you need to have something (the key or phone) in order to gain access, and those notifications to verify requests, like alarms, can tip you off that your password could be at risk.
    • Fun fact, other multi-factor authentication systems can actually go further than this. Some use such features as the pattern of your iris (the coloured part of the eye) or facial structure to add a further step of verification. Thus, to access the account, you’d have to know something, have something and be something, making security breaches highly unlikely.
  4. All of our online apps and accounts require passwords, but we all forget these from time to time. We’ve all had to reset a password, generally by sending a link to our email. Just make sure you use a strong password for this email. It should be unique (different from your other passwords), seemingly random (not using easily guessable components like your place of birth, birthday, favourite pet or another well-known personal detail), and relatively long (although it is just as good to make it more random and involving special characters, as long as it has around 10 characters minimum).
  5. We’re all human, and naturally, we have fallible memories. So if you want to avoid constantly having to reset passwords (and if you’re like me, realise what the old password was because that’s what you tried to set the new one as), using a password manager might be for you. Do bear in mind however that your password manager holds the proverbial “keys to the kingdom” and should be protected accordingly. That means, along with seemingly random passwords, 2-factor authentication is a good idea for this. One helpful password manager service that allows 2-factor authentication and helps you create a strong password is called LastPass. I would recommend it to those who have trouble remembering all their passwords.

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