Guest Column from Gregory A. Tapocsi, Director of CyberOhio/Senior Assistant Attorney General -- Consumer Protection
Your smartphone holds your favorite pictures, videos, and apps, but it also contains large amounts of your business and personal information. Even though smartphones store emails and start the car, business owners tend to overlook the fact that our phones are vulnerable to cyberattacks just like our home and office computers.
How many times have you checked your work email while connected to public Wi-fi? Or, how often have you clicked on a link in an email or text message without thinking twice about it? Unfortunately, these actions can make it easier for your phone to be attacked.
When a malicious app invades your phone, sensitive materials such as your call logs, contacts, and usernames/passwords for email and social media accounts could all be stolen. Your calls could silently be recorded or hackers could generate outbound calls and texts without your permission. However, there are several simple ways to help protect you and your smartphone from cybercriminals.
1. Lock your phone. This can be done by setting a PIN, pattern, or password in order to keep people from physically accessing your phone. While locking your phone won’t protect you from online threats, it will keep your information safe if you lose your phone.
2. Do not connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Hackers can monitor your activities when you’re using unsecured Wi-fi networks. Turn off the automatic Wi-fi connection feature on your phone, and don’t visit sensitive websites like your bank while connected to public Wi-fi.
3. Disable your device’s Bluetooth capabilities. When you are in public, disable your phone’s Bluetooth capabilities. Bluetooth allows your phone to connect wirelessly to other electronic devices. Similar to connecting to Unsecured Wi-fi networks, Bluetooth also allows hackers to connect to your phone without your permission and put your personal information at risk.
4. Always verify apps before downloading. When downloading apps, always use a legitimate app store such as Google Play or the App Store. Even then, malicious apps sometimes slip through the cracks. Before you download, look for outrageous promises, bad or excessively positive reviews, and vague app permissions.
5. Use an antivirus app. App stores are home to hundreds of antivirus programs. The National Cyber Security Alliance hosts staysafeonline.org where users can find a free ‘online security checkups and tools’ section with antivirus suggestions.
6. Keep your phone operating system and all apps updated. App makers and smartphone manufacturers are constantly putting together updates that help make your device more secure. Make sure your app and phone settings permit automatic security updates.
7. Before clicking, verify links found in text messages, multimedia messages, or emails. Even if the message or email seems legitimate, always go directly to the website by specifically entering the web address into your internet browser.