Smartphone Security Tips

With smartphone sales expect to rise in 2011, it’s a safe bet that that cell phone theft will also continue to be a booming business – especially when smartphones are becoming a one-stop-shop for just about everything.  Technology makes your life more convenient, but you’ve also got to be more careful. With so much personal information and credit card information in your purse or pocket, you’ll want to take some extra caution.

Here is another thought to consider.  Have you ever wondered why cell phone companies don’t seem interested in trying to prevent the theft of smartphones?  If you have ever lost, or had one stolen, and you are on a plan, you still have to pay the plan approximately up to 24 months, and you have to buy another handset and enter into another contract.  This is obviously more revenue tor the phone companies.

You also need to take into account that for many, their life’s information is on their smartphone and computer, but the risk for identity theft from the smartphone is much higher than from a computer. Why? How likely are you to lose your smartphone? Smartphones, such as the iPhone, Andriod or Blackberry, go with us everywhere we go and the small size makes the smartphone much more likely to be left behind than a laptop computer. Combine the higher loss factor with the fact that data on smartphones is less secure than the data on a laptop and it’s provides an easy recipe for identity theft.

Additionally, with smartphone sales expect to rise in 2011, it’s a safe bet that that cell phone theft will also continue to be a booming business.  As the following story illustrates, it might be a good idea to look into some of the anti-theft apps available out there.  A CBS affiliate in Philadelphia ran a story about a typical home invasion and the subsequent pursuit of the alleged burglar by police.  Where the story get’s interesting is how the police tracked down their suspect: by using a GPS tracking app (like LoJack, but for cell phones) which had been downloaded on the very same smartphone the unfortunate thief stole.

According to the story, the victim woke up with an intruder standing over her bed in the middle of the night.  The burglar managed to escape before police arrived, but the homeowner noticed that some of her belongings had been stolen, including her Sprint HTC smartphone.  Luckily, the victim had downloaded a GPS tracking device app on her cell phone.  Using a laptop, the victim and police were able to literally follow the suspect street by street to his hiding place.  After confronting the suspect, the police were not immediately able to locate the stolen phone.  Fortunately, the app includes a “scream” function (a lost phone alarm) which allowed the police to find the phone and the other stolen goods which had been hidden inside the home.

When it comes to businesses, many are keenly aware that the theft of smartphones can be very problematic and have instituted smartphone theft response plans.

Here are a few additional security tips:

Smartphone Password are Mandatory!

Especially while traveling, people tend to lose their phones in airports, cabs, and other public places. Setting a password is the simplest way to keep your data safe if your phone goes AWOL during the hustle and bustle of  travel. Make sure that your password is strong enough so that a thief can’t easily guess it.One of the most basic smartphone security tips involves the easy step of setting up a password. If your phone has this capability, take advantage of it. BlackBerries and iPhones both have password settings you can customize. Choose a difficult number, not 1234 or your birthday. Android uses an unlock pattern in which the owner has to run his finger over the screen in a certain manner. Make your unlock pattern complex by using more dots to connect your pattern.

Set your phone up to go into password protect mode after as little time as possible, having not been touched. Many phones have this capability. On an iPhone you can go to “settings,” then “general,” then “password lock.” On a BlackBerry, go into “security options,” “general settings” and then “security timeout.” This way, if your phone is physically stolen or lost, and if someone gets a hold of it, they will not be able to get into the phone without the password. A lot of damage can be done in five minutes. For ultimate security, set your phone so it goes into password protect mode immediately.

Unfortuantly, in some cases, having a passcode-controlled lock on your phone’s software isn’t enough to protect your information. The user-set passcodes, which act like personal identification numbers to access phones, can be unlocked, allowing the person who holds your phone to reuse it. While a passcode can provide an extra layer of security because it makes it more difficult to access the phone’s information; a number of YouTube videos show how to unlock passcodes on phones. In many cities, storefront cell phone repair shops can wipe the phone clean of information and data even if there’s a passcode on it for as little as $20. Once wiped, a new user can personalize your phone and sync it up to his or her computer if he wants to load his or her own music.

Increase Smartphone Security Awareness

Simply by being aware of your surroundings while using a smartphone in public can significantly lessen your chances of becoming a victim. For instance, while your smartphone is on a table, desk, or counter, it will always be a target for thieves.  Additionally, know that many theives have easy access to stealing smartphones from women’s purses when they are placed in outside purse pockets.  Smartphones are easily removed from these purses and handbags in public settings.

Consider one of the many anti-theft smartphone applications

It might be a good idea to look into some of the anti-theft apps available out there. Numerious are availalbe, just make sure you do the proper research before you buy.

Consider using a smartphone security pouch or smartphone security case

With the rise of smartphone thefts, some companies have made smartphone security cases and smartphone security pouches.  While the cases may look ordinary, they have anti-theft features built in so they help prevent the smartphone from being stolen.  The following are just a few of the features you can find on these anti-theft smartphone cases which can be found here.

  • eXomesh® Slashguard in front panel – Prevents the smartphone pouch from being slashed and the phone removed
  • Slashproof adjustable neck / shoulder strap – Prevents a smartphone thief from cutting the rear strap of the smartphone anti-theft pouch and running away with it
  • Tamperproof concealed safety hook to secure purse and mobile phone pocket – Prevents smartphone thieves from removing your smartphone from the security pouch without your knowledge

Always keep an eye on your phone while traveling.
As you’re going through airport security, watch your phone as it enters the x-ray machine and retrieve it immediately when it comes out—thieves will often steal phones during the few seconds where people don’t pay attention as they go through the metal detector. If you set your phone down on a counter or table, don’t let it out of your sight.

Don’t click on links in text messages from people you don’t trust.
As they do with email, spammers use text messages to install spyware and steal or “phish” your information. Make sure that whenever you click on a link in a text message, you trust the person who sent it. Even if you’ve been doing some recent holiday shopping, online stores, your bank, or your carrier won’t ask to “verify” your account information. Be especially careful if you are traveling to Europe or Asia, where we have seen a much higher rate of text message spam.

Keep Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off when you aren’t using them.
Airports, coffee shops, and hotels are especially attractive targets for hackers around the holidays, as they can use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to attack phones and steal information. The easiest way to stay safe (and conserve battery) is to turn Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off when you aren’t using them. When you use Bluetooth, make sure it is in non-discoverable mode. When you use Wi-Fi, always try to use an encrypted network or use a VPN if your work has one, otherwise, hackers can easily “sniff” your data out of the air.

Safety Strap Solution

 

One simple but effective solution of helping to protect your smartphone from theft is to attach it to a safety strap that is either worn around the neck or attached to a belt or a bag, and then kept out of sight. Of course this method would be ineffective in a mugging situation but might be enough to guard against your phone being snatched from you while you are unaware. When you do pull out your smartphone in public, make sure you are in an environment you feel comfortable in.  Subway and transit stations may be a common place to need to use a phone but it is also a hot spot for phone thieves.

Back up your data.
Before leaving on a trip, be sure to back up your data—it only takes a few minutes. If you happen to lose your phone (or accidentally drop it in the punch bowl), you’ll be up and running in no time.

Apply software/firmware updates from your carrier or phone vendor.
Carriers and phone manufacturers routinely provide software or firmware updates to fix security vulnerabilities that hackers can use to attack your phone. Even if you get a brand new phone, it may be out of date. Check on the carrier or phone manufacturer’s website for any available updates and be sure to apply updates as soon as they are available in the future. Just like a desktop or laptop computer, staying up to date is your first line of defense from hackers and viruses.

Only download applications from reputable sources.
Getting a new phone? The first thing you will likely do is download apps—lots of them. You will probably download more apps on your phone than you have on your computer. Make sure to download responsibly: it is safer to use application marketplaces provided by your carrier or phone vendor than to download directly from the web. Some sites have hosted repackaged versions of popular mobile apps—such as Google Maps—that include spyware. Malware and spyware can still sneak in to marketplaces however, so be careful, especially with applications from unknown developers that have poor ratings or low download numbers.

Have a plan in case it gets stolen.
Many mobile security experts say it’s not just a matter of “if” your smart phone is lost or stolen but “when.”  You should have a plan in place in case you lose your phone or it’s stolen.  There’s software to remotely lock your smart phone or wipe it clean of all your information.

Pay attention to the private data accessed by apps.
Applications have the capability to access a lot of information about you. When you install an app, take the time to read the data and personal information that it needs to access. Whether it is access to your location, your personal information or text messages, it should make sense that the application needs access to those capabilities.

Download a “find your phone” app.
No matter how diligent you are about keeping your phone on you at all times, you’re bound to lose it once, or it may even get stolen at some point. Download an app that helps you find your phone in case it is lost or stolen. Make sure you can remotely lock your phone if it is lost or stolen.

Exercise caution with links in SMS messages.
Smishing, or a combination of SMS texting and phishing, is when scammers send you a text to a malicious website or ask you to enter sensitive information. Don’t click on links in text messages or emails if you don’t know the sender or they look suspicious. Trust your instincts.

On Public Wi-Fi, limit email, social networking and only window shop.
Public Wi-Fi networks have become ubiquitous, but unfortunately securing the websites you may access haven’t. Many websites, email programs, instant messaging programs and social networking sites are not entirely safe to browse or access from a public Wi-Fi network. Also, trying to limit your online shopping to “window shopping” on a public network.

Never enter your credit card information on a site that begins with only “http://”.
If a website ever asks you to enter your credit card information, you should automatically look to see if the web address begins with “https”. On unsecured networks, (those that have only have http://), mean a hacker could easily steal information like usernames, passwords and credit card numbers, which could lead to identity theft.

Enable a Wipe feature on your phone.
If you find yourself (or your phone) in a difficult situation, and you won’t be able to get your phone back, a Wipe application will clear all the data so your private information won’t fall into the wrong hands. If you can, try to download an app where you can wipe your SD card too.

For additional Smartphone Security Tips and videos, visit the below links

Video of smartphone security tips