As we get increasingly connected, the risk of hackers going after what’s in our devices rises alongside. Protecting your phone or tablet isn’t necessarily difficult – but may be a little exhaustive. Part of the reason is simply because there are so many methods and means you have to guard against.
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1. Keep the Phone in Your Hands
Mobile devices are personal. Many of us keep a lot of information in them – no matter what the reason. Allowing anyone else access to your device is a potential loophole in your security. Always make use you’ve locked it with a password that’s as unique as possible.
While passcodes like 1234 or 1111 may be easy for you to remember, they are also typically the first that anyone will try and guess. If possible, avoid numbers that are commonly associated with you as well, such as year of birth.
What to do: Simply make sure that you keep your phone out of other people’s hands.
2. Avoid Unknown Apps
One of the easiest ways for hackers to get into your device is when you invite them in personally. This typically happens when you install relatively shady applications from unknown sources. A hacker might have embedded code that will allow them access.
Whether you’re using Google’s Play Store or the Apple App Store, official channels typically review applications listed there. Their mechanisms at least do some basic scans of applications before allowing them to get listed on the stores.
That is why most mobile devices will not allow you to install apps from unknown sources. Even if they do, they will warn you first and require you to do a manual intervention to proceed with the installation.
What to do: Loading unknown apps on apple devices isn’t easy by default. Android is safe by default as well, but you need to make sure that the option to allow installation of unknown apps is turned off.
3. Keep Your OS and Apps Updated
The advice about keeping the Operating System (OS) and apps updated has transferred from desktops to mobile devices. As far as possible, always make sure you have the latest update for your mobile OS – be it iOS or Android.
These updates aren’t just to introduce new features or performance improvements. In fact, a major part of most updates is to ensure that bugs or other weaknesses in the OS itself are patched. Hackers often look for vulnerabilities to exploit and they only need one to work their way into your phone or tablet.
What to do: Enable auto-updates on your device. This will let it download and install any new patches or versions when necessary.
4. Protect Your Connection
Keeping the information inside your device safe is only half of the equation to better security. When your apps try to communicate to wherever they usually connect to, data is flowing to and from your device.
This data needs to be protected or there is a chance it might get intercepted and stolen mid-way. Imagine you’re logging in to your bank account and your username and password gets stolen.
Public WiFi is notoriously dangerous since data is often transmitted openly on these channels. That means anyone nearby could simply be sitting there and harvesting data for as long as they want.
What to do: The best way to protect your data is to look towards a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. These help you mask your identity and also protect your data with secure servers and strong data encryption.
Here are the recommended VPN services for privacy protection:
5. Protect Against Malware
In the context of mobile devices there is a greater concern for Malware – and viruses are just a portion under that umbrella. While there aren’t that many viruses designed for mobile platforms, there is a ton of Malware.
These are designed to do so many things, from stealing your information to hijacking your phone entirely. Thankfully, many security solution companies today offer comprehensive products which cover mobile devices as well.
What to do: Getting a security package from a reputable vendor like Norton can allow you to install their solution on multiple platforms with a single subscription.
6. Tread Carefully With Bluetooth
Bluetooth is very useful, especially for mobile devices. It allows us to connect to other devices and use them together. For example, pairing a bluetooth keyboard to our tablets, or connecting our phone to bluetooth headsets.
Unfortunately, this connectivity presents yet another loophole that can be exploited by hackers. The open connection allows hackers to see your device – it’s like an open menu for them to choose whom they want to attack.
What to do: It is pretty unrealistic to expect everyone to disable bluetooth. However, try and disable it when you’re not actively using any bluetooth devices.
7. Make Use of Biometrics
Newer devices today often come with biometric security features built in. Examples of this are facial recognition or fingerprint reading. This is typically more secure and helps if your device gets stolen. While a thief can guess your password, he can’t easily replicate your face or fingerprint.
Be warned however, that facial recognition technology still seems a bit iffy. So far,fingerprint biometrics seem to be the way to go. The sensors are fast so unlocking your devices won’t be delayed and they are relatively accurate.
What to do: By default, biometrics on most devices aren’t enabled. Refer to your device manufacturer to see how to enable it.
See how to set up biometrics for these manufacturers:
8. Device Encryption
As a further step in keeping your data safe, you can encrypt it on your device as well. Encryption works in different ways but the basic concept is similar. The encryption algorithm scrambles your data so that it doesn’t make sense to anyone that intercepts it.
Of course, this process is reversible – but only by the encryption system that is responsible for handling it in the first place. When using encryption, do note that different levels of it are possible. Make sure you’re encrypting everything, not just the data for a single app.
What to do: Both iOS and Android support data encryption natively for most of the newer devices. The method may vary depending on the model of your phone, so do check the documentation that comes along with it.
9. Hide Sensitive Data
Using encryption is the safest method, but for those who do not prefer it, there are other similar concepts that will work as well. One of these is to only hide select data from prying eyes by using an app.
For example, Microsoft Onedrive comes with a Personal Locker function that adds a specially encrypted folder for sensitive data. Accessing this data requires extra authentication just for increased security.
The problem is that not many apps are willing to offer functions like this. In those cases, you may need to resort to an app specially designed to hide data.
What to do: Either use app-based hiding like what’s offered in Onedrive or turn to data-hiding apps. For example KeepSafe Photo Vault helps you store photos and other media securely on your device.
10. Manage App Permissions
Although most legit apps don’t typically present much danger, many of them have a tendency to request many permissions. When we download, install, then launch an app – we don’t usually pay too much attention.
This can become a problem if a shady app somehow manages to mask its way onto a list of legitimate ones. Then, all the permissions you gave it can work against you.
What to do: Carry out periodic reviews of the permissions you give each app. If you find an app requesting permissions it should not need in order to function, it might be time to investigate a bit further.
11. Do Basic Housekeeping
Devices today come with increasingly massive amounts of storage space. This has led to many of us adopting a ‘hoarder’ mentality and simply keeping everything. This needs to be addressed in two ways – at the data and app level.
Try to avoid keeping anything that isn’t really necessary. In particular, pay heed to the apps or information that you have not used for a long time. Each app is a potential vulnerability spot after all.
What to do: Clean out your apps once in a while and move unnecessary data on to Cloud storage – as long as it’s not on your device.
What is Phone Hacking?
Phone hacking, or tablet hacking, is what cybercriminals do to gain access to your device. Typically they are after information stored in it. The data in our devices can be very valuable, such as usernames and passwords, or even personal data that may be useful to them.
Device hacking today has become increasingly complex. Possible attacks now span a wide spectrum, from basic brute-force attempts to crack passwords to sophisticated phishing attempts and subtly embedded malware.
Fixing a Hacked Device
It can be incredibly difficult to recover a hacked device since it has already been compromised. Most cyberattackers gain entry, grab all they want, then simply leave. To recover from a hacking you need to re-secure your device and then make sure your data is not being misused.
There is no way to really know if your device has been hacked. However, hack attempts (or successes) may have a few tell-tale indicators. These may include:
- Quick battery drains
- Abnormally high data usage
- Frequent device crashes or hangs
- Erratic app behaviour
If you experience these or any other unusual behaviour on your devices, then it’s time to carry out some tests. Start by using anti-malware apps to scan your device. If it’s clear, there is no issue, if not the anti-malware app will typically fix those problems for you.
Next, consider the key apps on your device and what services they communicate with. Make sure you check your accounts with those service providers and change your passwords immediately. This is especially important for financial systems like digital banking accounts.
The keyword when it comes to hacking is Prevention. By the time you’re trying to fix a problem, it will likely already be too late. Take proactive steps to keep your devices safe and you’ll rest much more peacefully at night.