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12 Ways To Keep Your Mobile Phone Secure

We call them phones, but today’s mobile phones have much more in common with a computer than the landlines of yesteryear. We use our phones to access and store all manner of sensitive information, both personal and work-related. We check our bank accounts, play games, send texts, watch streaming movies, and browse web pages, all through our phones. Small wonder then, that hackers and malware users look for ways to overcome phone security. 

What is Mobile Malware?

Mobile malware describes any malicious software designed to compromise your smartphone security. Designed to work without your awareness or permission, mobile malware falls into four broad categories:

  • Mobile spyware secretly monitors and records the phone user’s actions. Spyware can access stored data, track website visits, listen in on phone conversations, and even access the phone’s camera and microphone. 
  • Rooting malware targets Android users, attempting to take over the phone’s root privileges. This gives the malware full control over the phone. Rooting malware often enters phones through links in spam email or phishing websites. The malware can install or delete apps, and copy sensitive information. 
  • Mobile banking trojans are one of the most serious types of mobile malware. A mobile banking trojan seeks to hack into banking apps to steal personal information and cash. Like rooting malware, mobile banking trojans tend to target Android users, but Apple users are also at risk. Banking trojans may disguise themselves as legitimate apps to bypass phone security. 
  • SMS malware can intercept, record, and send calls and text messages. Unauthorized calls and text are then directed to expensive SMS text services or premium-charge numbers, which charge the phone user for their use. 
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How to Make Your Cell Phone secure

“How can I protect my mobile devices from malware?” is a question our support technicians hear all the time. Ideally, your smartphone security operates on multiple levels, combining an awareness of malware risks with an understanding of mobile phone security features and phone vulnerabilities. Here are 12 ways to improve your phone security:

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Malware Spread

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Identify Symptoms

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Remove Malware

Know how malware spreads

Knowing how malware is most likely to spread helps you avoid actions that can compromise your phone.
Mobile malware can bypass phone security by:

  • Posing as or hiding inside legitimate apps
  • Downloading after phone users open links from fraudulent emails, texts, or websites
  • Downloading after phone users follow directions on voicemail phishing scams
  • Taking advantage of phone operating system vulnerabilities, often targeting software that has not been updated
  • Using spoofed Wi-Fi or URLs to trigger malware downloads

Learn to identify possible symptoms of malware

While some malware operates without any indication it’s on your phone, other malicious code has symptoms. If you detect any of the following, you may have malware on your mobile device:

  • Apps you did not download suddenly appear on the phone
  • Excessive amounts of pop-up ads
  • Mysterious extra charges to your phone bill
  • Phone batteries draining abnormally fast
  • Reduced performance
  • Sudden increases in data usage on your mobile plan

Learn how to remove malware

If you suspect malware has compromised your phone security, take these steps:

  • Shut down and restart your phone
  • Activate safe mode
  • Uninstall any apps that mysteriously appeared
  • Clear your browsing history
  • Shut down and restart your phone

Each phone will have its own way of activating safe mode, uninstalling apps, and clearing browser history. Consult your phone manual if you don’t know how to take these actions.

If the problem persists you may have to resort to the nuclear option: erasing all data from your phone. You can do this by resetting the phone to its factory settings. Be aware this means all apps, photos, files, and other information will be lost.

Backing up your phone’s data on a regular basis protects vital information in the case of theft, phone loss, phone damage, or if you have to reset your device to factory settings. Backup methods vary from phone to phone, and instructions should be available in your phone’s instruction manual. It’s usually possible to set your phone to backup information at certain times, such as when you’re at home connected to your own Wi-Fi network

Use two-factor authentication

Most new phone models offer more than one way to log into your phone, and almost all phones allow you to set a 4-digit PIN to prevent unauthorized access. Other smartphone security verification options may include fingerprint verification, facial recognition, creating a password, or even drawing a pattern on the screen.

How to make your cell phone secure

You can greatly reduce the risk of mobile malware infecting your phone by taking some simple smartphone security precautions. No single step offers 100 percent protection, but used together they provide the best possible defense.

Download an anti-malware app

Downloading an anti-malware app from the Apple Store or Google Play helps keep your phone malware-free, and is well worth the cost of the app. Popular anti-malware apps include Avast Antivirus, Bit Defender Antivirus, Kaspersky Antivirus, and Norton Antivirus.

Only download apps from trusted sources

It can be tempting to download apps from third-party app stores, especially if you have to pay for the app on Google Play or the Apple Store. Only download apps from trustees sources, as third-party apps are often loaded with viruses and malware.

Avoid clicking on links in email or text messages

Any text or email from an unknown source should be treated with suspicion. Links embedded in the message could help malware bypass your mobile phone security features. You should also be wary of messages from banks, merchants, and service providers asking you to click a link and login or provide personal information. If you think the message might be legit, contact the organization directly (don't use any contact info in the message — go online and find the contact info yourself).

Keep your operating system up-to-date

Update your operating system whenever your phone prompts you to do so. New updates patch previous unknown smartphone security vulnerabilities and improve your phone’s performance. Many malware creators count on people not taking the time to update their phones so they can take advantage of those vulnerabilities. 

Before updating your phone, fully charge it to ensure the battery does not die during the update installation and back up your data. You may want to take the time to uninstall any apps you no longer use prior to an update, to speed up the download and installation process.

Be suspicious of public Wi-Fi

Avoid using unsecured public Wi-Fi if at all possible, as they can easily be compromised by hackers. You should also consider turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features in public to block potential malware entry points. Many phone plans now offer mobile hotspots so users can avoid public Wi-Fi altogether. 

Be wary of public charging stations as well. Malware has been known to compromise charging stations, allowing malicious code to enter your phone.

Backup your data

Backing up your phone’s data on a regular basis protects vital information in the case of theft, phone loss, phone damage, or if you have to reset your device to factory settings. Backup methods vary from phone to phone, and instructions should be available in your phone’s instruction manual. It’s usually possible to set your phone to backup information at certain times, such as when you’re at home connected to your own Wi-Fi network

Use two-factor authentication

Most new phone models offer more than one way to log into your phone, and almost all phones allow you to set a 4-digit PIN to prevent unauthorized access. Other smartphone security verification options may include fingerprint verification, facial recognition, creating a password, or even drawing a pattern on the screen.

How to make your cell phone secure in case of theft

So far we’ve discussed how to make your phone secure from virtual threats, but how to protect your phone from theft? Phones are small, making them easy to steal (or lose for that matter). Should a thief gain access to your phone’s contents, your personal information is at risk. 

Two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication helps prevent thieves and other unauthorized parties from unlocking your phone. You can set up device features that allow you to locate the phone via GPS from your computer or a different mobile device, but this feature will not work if the phone battery is dead.

Remote data wipes

Other anti-theft mobile phone security features include a remote wipe option. If you set this up in advance, you can delete all data on the missing device. This won’t get your phone back, but at least ensures the thief cannot access your data, which may include sensitive personal or financial information. 

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