Get smart about smartphone security
By Attorney General Roy Cooper
Technology has made it easier than ever for us to stay connected on the go. More and more North Carolinians rely on smartphones—cell phones that can also connect to the Internet—to keep in touch no matter where they are. These phones are essentially mini-computers, but people may not always remember that when it comes to keeping them secure.
With tech experts predicting that within the next few years a majority of us will use our iPhones and Blackberries rather than computers as our main way to access the Internet, it’s time to take smartphone security seriously. Smartphones aren’t immune to viruses or hackers, and one recent study by a security company found that people are three times more likely to fall for scam emails when they receive them on their phones than on their computers.
Here’s how you can get smart about smartphone security:
- Guard it with a password. Protect your smartphone—and any personal information that could be accessed through it—with a password in case it gets lost or stolen. Avoid using easily available information for your PIN or password such as your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers (for example, 1234).
- Protect your personal information. Don’t store bank account or credit card numbers, passwords or other financial data on your smartphone. If you use your phone for online banking and other transactions, be sure to use only secure websites.
- Be cautious before you click. Never click on a link or open an attachment unless you know the sender and are sure the message is legitimate. Fraudulent phishing emails can look less dangerous on a smartphone because it’s harder to spot the tell-tale signs, such as strange grammar or formatting. Remember, companies with which you do business aren’t going to email you to ask for your bank account or Social Security Number.
- Check out apps before you download. There are lots of amazing applications available for smartphones, but some of them can put your privacy at risk. Read privacy policies carefully before you agree to download any app, and remember that apps that claim to be “free” can sometimes have hidden costs.
- Watch out for free Wi-Fi. Many places offer free wireless Internet access, but be careful before you connect. Doing financial business via free Wi-Fi can put your identity and your money at risk of being stolen. Hackers also sometimes set up free wireless hot spots hoping to lure victims. Check to see if your phone allows you to turn off the Wi-Fi function when you aren’t using it, which can help protect your information and keep others from using your wireless capability to get online.
- Talk to kids about smartphone safety, too. If your child or teen has a phone with Internet capability, remember that these are miniature computers that give them access to the world. Talk to your kids about staying safe online and the dangers of sharing inappropriate information, whether they’re using the family computer or their phone. Tips on Internet safety for parents are available at www.ncdoj.gov.
- Keep security in mind for tablets, e-readers. Many of these same risks and tips apply if you use a tablet computer such as the iPad or an e-reader like the Kindle or Nook.
- When it’s time for a new phone, scrub your old one clean. Don’t throw away or recycle your old phone until you’ve removed your personal data. Scrubbing your phone may take several steps, including removing the memory or SIM card. Consult the manual that came with your phone and your cell phone company and/or the phone manufacture to make sure you know exactly what you need to do to clear all personal information.