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We are in love with mobile technology, and so are cell phone service providers. The Pew Research Internet Project reports that a whopping 90 percent of American adults have a cell phone, and 58 percent of them have a smart phone. 29 percent said they couldn’t imagine living without their cell phones. When was the last time you wrote down a phone number? New numbers just go into our cell phones, and we usually don’t give them another thought, other than to maybe assign a funny ring tone or goofy icon to some of them. Our cell phones make our lives easier and are fun to use. But cell phones and especially smart phones come with some risks to guard against.
What Kinds of Risks?
You risk exposing personal financial and identifying information when using a smart phone, especially out in public. Moving around while using your mobile device means using Wi-Fi services that have varying levels of security. Some apps for smart phones are not safe and expose users to malware, “phishing” or hacker attempts to get private information, and other scams.
If your phone is GPS-enabled, you may be exposed to stalking, harassment, and even physical danger if someone uses it to track your location. Once enabled, GPS stays on until manually turned off by the phone user. Be aware of the GPS status of your phone when out in public or away from home. ID Theft Center advises to get into the habit of turning off GPS before you leave the house and after each use.
Precautions for Smart Phone Use
No one should be able to access your phone without your knowledge and consent. To prevent someone from picking up and using your phone when you step away briefly, password protect it with a strong password not associated with any personal identifying information.
Don’t use your smart phone without security software. Use a reliable smart phone security program and keep it updated regularly. Don’t download every interesting app you come across. Take the time to read up on every app you want to use, including reviews and developer information, before you install and use them.
Try to avoid using public Wi-Fi, and if you do, don’t use it to make purchases or access your email. Use your provider network rather than a public Wi-Fi network where hackers may be able to access your device. Be very careful when making any purchases with your smart phone and check every purchase site for security. If you’re looking for more in-depth information on identity theft protection, the LifeLock website has some great tips on cybersafety.
Essential Programs for Security
“Phone finder” apps help you find your phone if it’s lost or stolen. Backup/wiping programs let you backup your phone information to your home computer and enable you to remotely wipe all data from the device if it ends up in the wrong hands. If you don’t have a backup/wiping program, you are vulnerable to losing sensitive data such as all the names and phone numbers on your SIM card, your browsing history of favorite and often-visited websites, and even purchase and online banking histories.
Identity thieves, hackers, and other shady characters are always looking for opportunities to get into an unsuspecting and unprotected user’s smart phone. It’s easier to take some simple precautions and use your smart phone safely than to try and do damage control for fraud, viruses, and loss of financial information.