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The Resource Center Online Security Issues & Protection | article

5 Tips to Protect Your Mobile Device

How to Protect Your Mobile Device

With tablet ownership nearly doubling since last year, it is now more important than ever to take  precautions to prevent hackers from gaining access to your personal information.

The adoption of tablets and smart phones is rising at a staggering pace.  In a recent study conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, one third of Americans (34%) now own tablet computers, almost twice as many as the 18% of tablet owners from a year ago.  And in a similar study conducted by the Pew Research Center, more than half of adults in the U.S. are smartphone owners.

"In this age of mobile technology advancement, hackers are focusing more of their attention on the security vulnerabilities of the devices consumers have come to rely upon," says Tim Rohrbaugh, a security analyst with more than 23 years of experience and VP of Information Security for Intersections Inc.  "We have become a society reliant on instant gratification which has its rewards, but with it comes risk."

According to Symantec's 2013 Norton Report, nearly one half of consumers don't take the most basic of precautions; such as password (device) protection, having security software, or using a backup method to protect files on their mobile devices.  That same report also found the average cost per cybercrime victim in the U.S. is $298, a 50% increase from 2012.

"As the market continues to increase to meet growing consumer demands, hackers will be busy taking advantage of the quick-to-market technology and a lack of consumer security," says Rohrbaugh.  "Consumers don't need to stop using devices; they just need to take some basic, but necessary steps to protect their personal information from falling into the wrong hands."

  1. Password protect your device to prevent access.  Any device; whether it's a smartphone or tablet, should be set with a hard to guess password, PIN, or other proven screen locking solution that would prevent thieves from gaining access to your personal information.  Never use your birthdate or last four digits of your Social Security number as your password.  When allowing someone to borrow your device, unlock it first.  Do not provide them with the access code.
  2. Never conduct financial or shopping transactions over public Wi-Fi.  The deluge of smartphones, apps, and tablets has made it easier for consumers to do more while "on the go".  Most Wi-Fi networks are not secure and sensitive information - such as credit card numbers - can be intercepted during transmission if unencrypted.  You should never access your banking information through public Wi-Fi if using a browser.  Instead, use your carrier's cellular service or native banking applications.
  3. Know how to remotely wipe your device.  We are moving at warp speed these days so it's not uncommon for phones and tablets to be misplaced or stolen right from under us.  Be smart and know how to remotely wipe your device in the event it should ever be lost or stolen.  Most devices these days include this capability within their operating systems but require initial setup for this service.
  4. Communicate with caution.  Just as you would on your PC, always use caution when communicating through email or text as both these methods expose your data in the clear.  Communicate through legitimate mobile apps where possible.  Never provide any personal or financial information to anyone requesting it.  Instead, call your financial institution directly and ask them if they requested the information.
  5. Use the mobile browser with caution for banking sites.  All mobile browser applications were completely rewritten for the mobile environment. Unfortunately, all have noted weaknesses that range from a lack of visual cues, validation of the site you are on, URL display issues that allow phishing sites through, or new types of attacks that involve mimicking multiple clicks by a mouse.  Native mobile apps built by legitimate trusted institutions (Found in Apple's Store or Google's play store) running on IOS or Android are some of the most secure (trusted) communication channels possible today.