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The original item was published from 11/4/2019 9:02:00 AM to 11/4/2019 9:02:05 AM.

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Secure Jeffco News

Posted on: October 21, 2019

[ARCHIVED] Staying Private on Mobile Devices


October is National Cyber Security Month. Jefferson County has partnered with the Golden, Lakewood, Westminster, and Wheatridge to develop 5 articles, one for each week this month, on what we think are the top things you should know about cybersecurity.

Many of us feel naked without our smartphones. These days it’s hard to function normally without a phone – we manage work, household, personal health, make payments in addition to texting, tweeting, gaming, and Facebooking. We use our phones to do just about everything, from mobile banking to getting directions to new places, to emailing out last minute notes on a project.

Using your smartphone as a centralized source for all your information comes with big risks, and the more you’ve connected and stored, the more you stand to lose. Your smartphone is the biggest security hole you have – it allows people and companies to track your communications and where you are at all times. Here are 10 ways to keep yourself private:

  • Lock Your Screen: Unfortunately, over 60% of us still don’t use a passcode and are willing to handover all your personal information to anyone who swipes your phone. You can also use a fingerprint or a pattern if you like it better then a passcode. When choosing a passcode, don’t chose anything obvious, such as your birthday or 123456.
  • Keep it Updated: Software vulnerabilities are constantly discovered, so the longer you wait to update, the more you put yourself at risk. In most cases you phone will notify you of any updates, but it’s good to check your settings every once in a while.
  • Control your Apps: It’s always good idea to turn off your WiFi, Bluetooth and Location when you are not using them as a security precaution, as well as to save your battery life. Be very selective what apps you install and ALWAYS check what permissions you are giving it. Many apps “require” access to your contacts, location, camera and microphone, so think twice before allowing them. Only install crucial applications from the official app store.
    • On Android, go to Settings and the Apps section to see a list of everything you’ve installed.
    • On iPhone, go to Settings and the Privacy section to see permissions grouped by type.
  • Don’t Click Suspicious Links: People are three times likely to click suspicious links on their phones than on a PC. The best advice is – don’t do it! Look more carefully at the URL, especially when it’s asking for personal information. Bad guys usually obfuscate the link in their emails, texts or on the websites - press and hold the link to show the true destination, so you can make an educated decision. A better choice is usually to open a browser and navigate to a known website instead of clicking an email link.
  • Avoid Open Public WiFi: Jumping on public WiFi might be easy, but it comes with risks – a hacker can jump on the same WiFi and steal the information you are transmitting, so it’s NEVER a good idea to check your bank account or send personal information while on public WiFi. If you absolutely must use the public WiFi, always use Virtual Private Network (VPN). Check with your provider on their offerings before you invest into a VPN solution.
  • Use Security Software: Fighting Spyware and Malware is important on your PC and on your phone. Just like you install an Anti-virus software on your PC you should install a similar security software on your phone to protect your security and privacy. Many mainstream antivirus vendors are good choice, but before you buy check with your provider if they offer it as part of your plan.
  • Back Up Your Phone Regularly: Backing up your phone means you’ll always have access to all your photos, music, apps and whatever else. This is of course important in case your phone gets lost or stolen, but it can also come in handy when you’re doing an OS update and experience a loss of data (it happens). Make sure to back up at least once a day for the best results or consider using automatic syncing with a cloud program.
  • Check if Your Provider is Watching: All major cell phone carriers have services to track your location and monitor all your communications on it. Call your carrier and make sure this service is not enabled if you don’t want them to keep any eye on you.
  • Guard the Data on your SIM Card: If you decide to sell your cell phone, one of the most important things is to remove both your SIM and your SD card, both of which contain a wealth of data. Do this when sending your phone in for repairs, as well, particularly if you don’t know your repair shop well.
  • Enable Remote Wipe: Should your phone ever be lost or stolen - it would be great to erase your important data from afar. You can do this through remote wiping, and it’s relatively easy to do on most devices.
    • iPhone requires you to do enable “Find My Phone” on the device and to sign up for an iCloud account, which will be your command central when it’s time to wipe.
    • Android requires a 3rd party app, such as “Android Device Manager” which is available on Play Store.

In summary, there are many security risks for smartphone users today, and these risks will continue to grow along with the devices’ popularity. Protect your phone, your data, and yourself by implementing just a few simple measures above. 

Good luck and stay safe.

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