It’s hard to imagine going through a single day without a smartphone. Need to get your schedule together? Your phone knows how to fix that. Buying groceries? Pay via your smartphone, which is even safer than using printed money.
All this is supported by the fact that there are 6.57 billion smartphone users worldwide. Such exceptional popularity has a downside. The smartphone industry has attracted many cybercriminals. Moreover, because smartphones are “younger” than desktop computers, their security system still requires improvement.
In this article, you will find precise steps you can take right now to protect your data on a smartphone. But before that, let’s briefly overview the smartphone cybercrime statistics.
Smartphone Hacking Threats Grows Exponentially Each Year
In 2014, a renowned cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab collaborated with Interpol to release a mobile cyber threats survey. According to their data, in the first half of 2014 alone, 175,442 new unique Android malicious programs were detected. It’s worth mentioning that most new smartphone malware targets Android devices. Apple’s iOS devices are safer by design. However, new iOS malware is popping out yearly, so applying at least some cybersecurity protection is best.
Eight years later, Kaspersky reported blocking more than 5.6 billion mobile cyber threats in Q3 of 2022. In other words, nearly every mobile user experiences some kind of malicious activity. Hackers are using SMS to spread Phishing, attack public Wi-Fi networks that many smartphone users enjoy, and insert viruses into Google Play apps (luckily, with a low success rate.)
Best Practices to Protect Your Smartphone Data
The statistics are troublesome. However, most common cyber threats are easily preventable by adding adequate protection. Some steps discussed below you may have heard of. Meanwhile, others go a bit deeper into cybersecurity nuances. Here’s what you can do to keep your data safe on a smartphone.
1. Regularly Update Your Device
There’s a good reason why many cybersecurity tips and tricks start with this simple advice. However, many people keep postponing updates until the last minute. This poses a significant risk to your smartphone safety.
Software and OS updates often contain critical security fixes. When developers notice a vulnerability in their code, they rush to secure it ASAP. If you don’t apply their update, cybercriminals can exploit the vulnerability to hack your smartphone. For example, the infamous WannaCry malware could’ve been prevented if people had applied Microsoft’s update on time.
2. Be Careful Browsing on Free Public Wi-Fi
There’s no denying that public Wi-Fi networks are comfortable. Sometimes they are even unavoidable. Cybercriminals know this very well and often target free Wi-Fi hotspots. Furthermore, free Wi-Fi service providers often lack sufficient resources to apply the latest cyber security protection software. So it’s up to you to protect your device while using it.
Firstly, always carefully inspect the network you are connecting to. Hackers deploy Evil Twin attacks to set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots with a similar name. For example, instead of official “Starbucks-Google,” you may find “Starbucks-Guests,” which sounds legitimate if you’re unaware of Evil Twin attacks. Once connected to such a network, you start sharing your information with hackers. They will inspect your traffic, looking for passwords, credit card details, and other personal information they can exploit.
Second, consider subscribing to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. VPN is a privacy protection-oriented cybersecurity software. It encrypts all your online data flow, making it indecipherable to third-party spectators. Read on about the best VPN service providers. Even if hackers monitor the Wi-Fi network you are using, they will not be able to extract any valuable information.
3. Do Not Allow Smartphones to Save Your Passwords
Not typing your passwords manually is a comfort everyone deserves. However, saving them on your Smartphone might be one of the worst ideas you can make.
It’s only natural to forget your smartphone on a table. All of us try to avoid it as much as possible, but it happens even to the best of us. If someone with malicious purposes uses your smartphone, they will gain immediate access to your accounts if you save your passwords on it. Moreover, hackers will take the passwords alongside any other information they may find if there’s a vulnerability in any of your apps.
Password managers like Nordpass are the number one go-to software to secure your online accounts. They store passwords in an encrypted vault with so many additional protection mechanisms that it would take cybercriminals dozens of years to hack it with current technology. Most password managers are paid software, but there are excellent free plans with limited features.
4. Encrypt Your Data
Modern cybersecurity would not be possible without advanced encryption algorithms. The Internet is gradually moving from HTTP to HTTPS protocol, which ensures all online data flow is encrypted.
However, we believe that additional encryption software will remain relevant for at least a couple of decades. Firstly, cybercriminals will most likely find a way around the standard HTTPS encryption algorithm. Second, some apps communicate over different protocols, and applying additional encryption on that channel is the best way to guarantee its safety.
Starting in 2015, Google ordered all Androids to be encrypted by default. Pay close attention if you’re using an older model. However, it only applies to data on Android. You should use additional data encryption if you upload files to your Cloud. Upload it in an encrypted form to prevent data leaks.
Furthermore, do not share the most sensitive information over unsecured chats. For example, Facebook’s chat is not end-to-end encrypted by default, which means other people might see its content. You should turn on end-to-end encryption or use more secure services like Telegram or Signal.
Additionally, we recommend using two-factor authentication whenever possible. It will prevent unauthorized access and account takeovers.
Do not forget about data backups. They will restore your data if your device gets hacked, stolen, or falls into a lake. Ensure you keep at least one backup in offline storage (like USB) to access it, even if you don’t have an Internet connection.
Even though you can take many more steps, following the discussed ones will prevent the most common smartphone cyber threats. Give yourself a few hours every half a year to update on the latest smartphone cybersecurity to protect your device against the latest threats.