As recently as 20 years ago, it was rare to see someone talking on a cell phone. In those days, when cell phones were simply mobile telephones — and not the multi-functional mobile devices we use today — people stored telephone numbers in the devices, but that was about as far as the information trail went.
If you stole someone’s phone, the phone — and not the information it contained — had the most value. That started to change when cell phones became internet-capable and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications made web-based data transmission and data storage commonplace.
Now, when people need to access sensitive personal or business information, they often open an app directly from their smartphone, with NowSecure reporting that “87% of time using mobile devices is spent using apps.”
Financial information, email, personal notes, GPS map routes, proprietary business data, and more, it’s all there. Housed in a sleek rectangle that looks like a phone but is more accurately a dynamic, palm-size computer — a thin device that can be a data thief’s proverbial pot of gold.
Efficient Identity Theft
For the average digital data thief — someone who’s tech savvy, but who couldn’t pass an upper-level computer science course — stealing a smartphone is a boom or bust opportunity.
If the phone is “locked down” — the home screen and apps passcode protected, the passcodes practically impossible to guess, and the passcode fields accepting a limited number of “attempts” at the right code, to name a few — the phone might be sold on the black market for precious metals, chopped up for parts, or just tossed in the trash.
That’s not an acceptable outcome for techies who can’t live without their new iPhone, but it’s easier to replace a smartphone than to recoup money and credit standing lost due to identity theft — which ranges from using a particular piece of identity, such as a credit card number, to full-on impersonation. Pieces of a business’s identity can be lifted and used nefariously, too.
This is why mobile security is so important and will only become more vital, as our reliance on smartphones increases. When someone stole a cell phone two decades ago, all they got was a portable phone that contained a few phone numbers of no use (unless the thief enjoyed making prank calls). Today, anyone with the requisite hacking abilities can literally gain access to the intimate details of your life or business. With that in mind, here are four simple things you can do to keep it from happening.
“Lock Down” Your Device
Most data thieves have one thing in common besides thievery: When stealing something, they prefer the path of least resistance. They want to enter an open door instead of busting through a lock. That’s why it’s a smart idea to “lock down” your smartphone.
Locking down your phone implements security measures that make it exceptionally tough for a thief to operate. In addition to the strategies mentioned previously, requiring a passcode to access the phone’s resources after the phone goes to “sleep”. Or after a short period of time passes, is a classic but effective lockdown move. So is taking advantage of passcode security features for specific apps.
PC World offers a helpful multi-step guide for locking down iPhones and Android devices. You can implement the measures using the factory-installed features on your iPhone or Android.
Don’t Save Your Passwords
Whether we go online for necessity or fun, we expect to find what we’re looking for in seconds — and it’s not because we’re impatient Americans who suffer from a national case of Attention Deficit Disorder. The internet trained us to be this way; that’s what it’s there for: instant information, instant gratification.
But when it comes to the time-saving trend of saved passwords, we have to fight back. Save your user name for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., if you must, but take time to re-enter your passwords. It’s an ultra-low-tech solution that can prevent data thieves from working high-tech chaos in your life.
Use Sites With SSL Certification
When visiting a website, check out the URL. Does it begin with the prefix “http” or “https”? If it starts with the latter, you’re surfing a site equipped with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protection — also known as Transport Layer Security (TLS). A site with SSL certification encrypts data as it travels from your browser to the site’s server, preventing it from being pirated along the way.
SSL certification has different levels. Extended Validation (EV) certification is the best. EV technology is complex, but it’s easy to identify a site that has it. On an EV-protected website, the site’s name (e.g. PC World) is preceded by a lock symbol that’s typically green or yellow. It’s also common practice for the site’s name to appear in green.
Separate Business and Pleasure
With this tip, we’re talking about where you get your phone’s apps and how you use them. If you use your smartphone for business, there’s a good chance you use it for pleasure, too. Some companies provide phones strictly for business, but cost consolidation and consolidation of IT resources make it increasingly common to use one device for both.
This isn’t a bad thing. As long as the apps you use are release by a provider who specializes in the applications’ specific function. For example, if you’re located in LA and looking for a cloud app that supports data migration between business apps, get it from a provider of outsourced IT services in Los Angeles that specializes in cloud services, with an emphasis on cyber security.
By the same token, if you want a cloud app that supports casual social media multitasking. You’re probably better off going with a provider that focuses on the social experience. Also, with double-sided firewalls that detect suspicious activity coming from within your account or from outside in.
Have a Safer Smartphone Experience
Cell phones were once a convenience. Today, with their ability to connect us to everything we need and want to find online, they’re a necessity. With this necessity comes another: protecting our smartphone against thieves who would access its data. However, the simple tips above can help you do this and enjoy a safer smartphone experience. Start using your phone smarter today!