How to protect your mobile devices

Man smiling and looking at tablet device

That smartphone in your pocket, the tablet on your coffee table, or that laptop on your desk contains practically everything there is to know about you, your friends, and your family. This includes contact information, photos, and even location data. Because of this, your mobile devices need safeguarding. We have a few simple security precautions you can follow to ensure you enjoy your mobile tech with peace of mind.

Keep a clean mobile machine

Update software and security programs on all devices

Having the most up-to-date mobile security software, web browser, operating system, and apps is the best defense against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Always keep your software updated when new updates become available, and only download updates from the company that created it.

Remembering to update your software can be a hassle—automatic updates allow you to get the latest security fixes without doing anything. You can let your device do all the work when newer software or app versions are available.

Delete apps when done

Many of us download apps for specific purposes, such as planning vacations, and have no use for them later. You might also lose interest or need for certain apps. Delete any apps and accounts you no longer use or need. Doing so will help manage your digital footprint, plus ensure you’re protected from cybercriminals and spam marketers or left off of mailing lists.

Shield your information

Secure your devices

Use strong passphrases, passcodes, PINs, or other features like facial identification to lock your devices. These passwords are your first level of defense if your device is lost or stolen. Avoid using sequential letters or numbers, like “qwerty” or “1234.”

Treat personal information like it’s money

Information about you, such as what you search for online or where you live, has value—just like money. Think about what services or people request that information and how it’s collected through apps and websites before providing it.

The National Cybersecurity Alliance has a tool that compiles privacy-setting information for most digital providers. You can usually limit what data these services collect about you, plus see what information has already been collected.

Own your online presence

Use security and privacy settings on websites and apps, especially social media platforms, to manage what is shared about you and who sees it. Regularly monitor privacy settings to ensure they’re set to your preference.

Even if your profiles or apps are on total lockdown, you should still watch what you post. Avoid posting personal information on social networking sites, and get in the habit of occasionally cleaning up your friend list.

Connect with caution

Turn off WiFi and Bluetooth when not in use

Some physical stores and locations look for devices with WiFi or Bluetooth turned on to track your movements while you’re within range. Cybercriminals can use this technology, too. Disable WiFi and Bluetooth when you aren’t using it.

Get savvy about WiFi hotspots

Public wireless networks and hotspots are not secure, so anyone could potentially see what you’re doing on your laptop or smartphone while you’re connected. Limit what you do on public WiFi, and avoid logging in to key accounts like email and financial services. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) or a personal/mobile hotspot if you need a more secure connection.

VPNs encrypt your online traffic and anonymize your location so you can browse securely. Even if your traffic is intercepted, hackers can’t view your activity.

When in doubt, don’t respond

Fraudulent text messages, calls, and voicemails—known as vishing—have become extremely common, especially with the rise of AI. Cybercriminals can change how caller ID appears, for example pretending to be someone from your bank, or they can mimic a loved one’s voice, faking that they’re in an emergency and need money immediately.

Like emails, mobile requests for personal data or immediate action are almost always scams. Treat spammy text messages and phone calls as you’d treat email spam—block and report.

Bottom line

Your personal information is at your fingertips, and it’s crucial to make sure you’re covered if it falls into the wrong hands. Following the above guidelines will ensure you can enjoy your phone or tablet worry-free. This is part of our ongoing cybersecurity series and how you can protect yourself in today’s digital age. For more educational tools, visit our Learning center.

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