Securing your smartphone: Best practices for mobile security

10 April 2024


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They keep us connected, entertained and informed about the world. Yet, as we continue to integrate smartphones into every facet of our lives, the stakes for securing them only get higher. So how do you go about securing your phone? Let’s unpack some top-notch tips and tricks to keep your device safe and sound.

What are the risks?

Smartphones are treasure troves of personal information, which makes them prime targets for cybercriminals. And unfortunately, the threats are many.

1. Malware and Viruses

Just like computers, smartphones can be infected with malware and viruses designed to steal personal information, spy on users or cause harm to the device itself. These malicious programmes can come from app downloads, email attachments or even visiting compromised websites.

2. Phishing attacks

Phishing is a technique used by cybercriminals to trick individuals into revealing personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers, through deceptive emails or messages. On smartphones, phishing attacks can also occur through SMS, also known as smishing or through fake apps.

3. Network spoofing and unsecure Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi networks can be a hotbed for cyberattacks. Hackers can set up unsecured Wi-Fi networks in public places to spy on internet traffic and intercept data. And remember, even legitimate networks can be compromised, allowing attackers to snoop on your online activities.

4. App-based threats

Some apps, even those available on official app stores, can pose risks to users by requesting excessive permissions, which may help them gain access to more information than needed for their functionality. Others might contain hidden malware or vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers.

5. Device loss or theft

Losing your smartphone or having it stolen can be more than just a financial loss. If not properly secured, your personal data, including contacts, messages and even financial information, can fall into the wrong hands, leading to identity theft or financial fraud.

Hand holding a mobile phone showing different apps
6. Data leakage

Apps and services can accidentally leak data due to improper security measures or bugs, which might expose your personal information, including your location, contacts and even content from your messages and emails to unauthorized parties.

7. Bluetooth vulnerabilities

Did you know that when left enabled, Bluetooth can be a gateway for cyberattacks? Vulnerabilities like Bluejacking and Bluesnarfing can allow unauthorized access to your device, enabling attackers to steal data or infect your device with malware.

8. Social Engineering

Beyond technical threats, social engineering plays a significant role in compromising smartphone security. This involves being manipulated into revealing passwords or installing malicious software.

9. Spyware and tracking

It may sound like something out of a James Bond movie, but spyware can be secretly installed on your smartphone, allowing attackers to monitor your activities, track your location and perhaps even eavesdrop on your conversations. And while this type of software can be installed through physical access to your device it can also be installed remotely.

10. Overlapping personal and work data

For those who use their smartphones for both personal and work purposes, there’s a risk of blurring the lines between the two and this can lead to security breaches affecting corporate data due to lax personal security practices or vice versa.

Essential security measures

Let’s begin with some basic tips and tricks:

Set strong passwords and biometrics

Setting up a strong lock screen is like putting a sturdy lock on your front door. Whether it’s a PIN, pattern or fingerprint, make sure it’s something only you know or have. Biometrics in particular, not only offer convenience but also add a layer of security that’s uniquely yours. And don’t stop here. Dive into your device’s settings and activate features like ‘Find My Device’ or its equivalent. It’s like having a GPS tracker on your phone – lost or stolen, you’ll know where it’s at.

Keep the operating system and apps updated

Here’s a fun fact: software updates are not just there to annoy you. They’re packed with security patches that fix holes in your smartphone’s armor. Regularly updating your phone’s OS (operation system) and apps can shield you against vulnerabilities that hackers exploit.

Understand app permissions

Be wary of apps requesting unnecessary permissions. Grant access to trusted ones that require such permissions for their functionality only and make sure you install new ones from reputable sources. And while we’re at it, regularly auditing your apps and permissions will keep things tidy and secure.

Person sitting down holding a mobile device

Advanced security measures

While the tips above are sufficient to keep your device safe, there are some additional steps you can take for a security boost:

Use encryption and VPN

Encrypting your device will make sure that your data is unreadable to unauthorized users. You can also use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to create a secure tunnel for your data since it encrypts your internet connection, keeping your online activities private and secure.

Install anti-virus software

While not always necessary, anti-virus software can provide an additional security layer, offering real-time protection against malware and other threats.

Back up your data

Imagine losing all your contacts, photos, and messages in a blink. Scary, right? Regular backups to the cloud or an external drive are your safety net. In fact, tools like Google Drive for Android users or iCloud for iPhone users make this process seamless and automated. Whether it’s a malicious attack or just a clumsy moment, you’ll be back on your feet in no time.

Safe browsing practices

The most sophisticated security technology can still be compromised by human error. Phishing scams, suspicious links, and too-good-to-be-true offers are traps waiting to be sprung. Exercise caution when browsing online. Avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading files from unreliable sources and make sure to enable features like Google Play Protect, which scans your device for harmful apps and activities.

Lastly, don’t overlook physical security. A stolen phone can easily become a breached phone if not properly secured.

Securing your smartphone isn’t just about installing apps or setting up locks. It’s a mindset. By staying informed, cautious and proactive, you’ll turn your device into a fortress rather than a free-for-all.

Protect your device with Secure Net

Ever found yourself looking at a dubious link that just popped up in your SMS, WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram or email? Clicking on these deceptive links can lead to all sorts of issues as mentioned above. With Secure Net you can stay protected when using your mobile data, whether you’re just browsing, opening links via SMS or using social media. In addition, you can add it to your existing internet connection or your pay monthly mobile plan for just €0.99/month and as an added bonus, we’ll give you the first 3 months for free.

Find out more about Secure Net and how it can protect you.

For more security-related content, read through our guide on phishing, malware and viruses and here is another one explaining why you should use a password manager. Meanwhile, here are some tips on how to keep your personal data safe.