These days, everyone has a smartphone, most people have tablets, and those of us still bound to a keyboard are still at least packing a laptop. The rise of the mobile network has spawned a revolution in connectivity, and people have access to information like never before.
There’s never been a time in human history when we’ve had more internet access, and as more and more ‘smart’ gadgets hit the market, the wave is far from cresting.
However, it’s worth noting that these devices all collect and share a massive amount of our personal data, and much of it without our direct involvement. Most WiFi-enabled devices communicate automatically when they encounter a network, transmitting our data nearly constantly.
While mobile devices are amazing tools, it’s important to take how they use your information seriously. It’s no coincidence that identity theft rates are rising just as rapidly. Here are a few tips to ensure you don’t fall prey to a hack attack.
#1. Check out your network and sharing settings
More often than not, most people never even go into their mobile device’s network security settings, and they get left on the factory default. Sometimes it’s no big deal, but some of these simple settings can spell big trouble for your privacy.
Look for things like file sharing and network discovery, and be sure to turn them off if they’re not already. In most cases, file sharing allows other users on the network to access documents in public folders on your device. Network discovery allows other users on the network to see that you’re there, presenting you as a potential target to hackers that may be lurking.
These precautions go double for your own home router. Again, lots of people just leave them on their factory settings, which means that their usernames are something such as Admin, and either there’s no password at all, or it’s an easily locatable default password.
Don’t get caught making this very basic security mistake. Check the privacy settings on all of your mobile devices, and make sure you understand what they all mean.
#2. Install a VPN
Most people know that using public hotspots and WiFi comes with its own risks, but honestly, isn’t that the whole point of having mobile devices, being able to use them on the go?
There’s no need to avoid public WiFi altogether (because let’s face it, you’re not going to). You just need to take the necessary precautions and install a VPN. VPNs encrypt your web traffic and route your online activity through a remote server, keeping you anonymous online and protecting your data from hackers.
There are plenty of options out there for mobile users, so do some shopping around and get the app that’s compatible with your device.
#3. Use anti-virus software
There are a ton of great anti-virus programs out there available for mobile devices, so take advantage and get some installed on your device yesterday. Mobile devices transmit massive amounts of personal information, and the potential for damage with nasty things such as ransomware is staggering.
You can get some seriously stellar protection on everything from laptops to smartphones, and even get features that protect you from online threats such as background scripts and phishing emails. Weigh your options, and see what’s out there for your mobile device.
#4. Online backup is your new best friend
Think of all the times you’ve dropped your phone, spilled something on your computer or sat on your tablet, and think of all the times you nearly lost hundreds of precious photos and contact information.
Mobile devices are incredible tools, but our reliance on them has put a tremendous amount of information and dependence in a device that all too often meets an early demise, many times resulting in the permanent loss of tons of information.
Online backup services are also available for smartphones, ranging from just photo coverage, to contacts and apps too. These services automatically keep backups of the supported data on the company’s secure servers, so even if your device is toast, your files aren’t.
Many online backup services even come with a remote wipe feature, which allow you to wipe a phone’s memory clean if it’s ever stolen. Seriously, if you’re going to back up any device, make it the one that you shove in your back pocket all the time.
#5. Be aware of how your device stores and uses your information
Like with any other device and operating system, mobile devices have you agree to terms and conditions and various privacy policies to get to use them. However, some of this can involve some unnecessary data collection (often for marketing purposes), and some unsavory third party information sharing.
I know those disclosures are a million miles long, but take the time to at least skim them before you agree to permissions with new apps and software. Make sure you know how and when your device is sharing your information, and get familiar with your system’s data settings to see what kind of information your device is collecting on your usage.
Also, it’s a good idea to turn off the setting that allows your device to connect automatically with WiFi hotspots. Though many VPNs can be set up to connect automatically in the presence of a hotspot, if you don’t have one installed, your device could be unbeknownst to you transmitting data over an unsecured connection.
Bottom line: play it safe. Smartphones, tablets and laptops are incredible tools, but you need to understand how their privacy settings work before you ever start using one. Always be aware of the potential damage that can be done should your device ever fall into the wrong hands, and never underestimate the risk of using an unsecured network.
Have you ever found out the hard way that your mobile device was sharing more than you realized? Share your experience so others can learn from you, and keep the information train rolling for smart mobile device use!