As yet another celebrity phone-hacking scandal makes headlines, it is more important than ever to realise this very real issue in mobile security, and how we can go about preventing such things happening to ourselves.
One of the most astonishing facts about our mobile phones is just how insecure they really are. It has become common practice to load our laptops and PCs with anti-virus, anti-malware and various other security precautions, and yet our smartphones rarely get a look-in. This is quite scary when you think of just how much personal data is stored on them, and how many apps are left perpetually running in the background for convenience.
Perhaps the most important thing to realise is just how vulnerable you are if your email is easily accessible. Because once a hacker has access to your email, they instantly have the means to reset any password for all accounts linked to that address. Not only does this allow them free reign of your details, it also locks you out with no easy way back in to prove who you are.
The best thing you can do is to lock your phone and treat it as you would your PIN. That means guarding it with your life – being aware of anyone watching you enter the digits and changing it regularly to something that is particularly unique to you; not 1,2,3,4 or 0,0,0,0.
In regards to other passwords, the same applies to your phone as it does to any online device. You should have as many different passwords as possible, and again, ones that are not predictable. A lot of sites now have a password strength bar that shows you how strong yours is, so aim for the red.
Unprotected networks are often unfortunately too good to be true. You would be amazed at how much information can be obtained within ten minutes of you browsing on an open network. If you have enough mobile data then use that. If not, perhaps it is best to be patient until you can find a secure connection. Smartphones also have a habit of automatically connecting to familiar networks without checking them for safety. Hackers can set up networks that trick your phone into thinking it has joined before. So do not be lazy and make sure that your WiFi is coming from a trusted source. The same goes for Bluetooth – if you have it turned on then make sure ‘Discoverable’ mode is disabled.
It may seem like an incredibly obvious thing to say, but avoid storing passwords and PIN codes on your phone. By not doing this you are essentially gift-wrapping your data for anyone to steal. Spring clean your phone regularly – deleting any messages that contain sensitive information and backing up things like photos.
The best thing you can do is to treat your phone as you would your computer, but with even more precaution. Only ever download apps from trusted sources and read through the small print before agreeing to allow them access to your camera, microphone or photo gallery. Be savvy and protect yourself as best you can. It is far easier than trying to recover from being hacked and worth the time it takes.