No one is safe from hacking attempts, as we just learned from CIA papers that were exposed. Here’s how to defend yourself from them, whether they come from state-sponsored spies or opportunist thieves.
Stay current and avoid creating new holes for yourself
Installing software updates as soon as they are made available is always the first step in securing your device against hackers; this rule applies to both computers and smartphones. Yes, updating can be a time-consuming and bothersome procedure that occasionally results in obtrusive changes to the UI you’re used to. Nevertheless, a significant number of successful hacks take use of flaws that have already been fixed; exposing yourself needlessly is plain stupid.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, I’d also highly warn against utilising unapproved tools to “root” (also known as “jailbreak”) your phone. Technical protections can be disregarded on a rooted phone, enabling apps to carry out all kinds of illegal tasks, including spying on your personal information.
Be cautious when installing anything
You can be prompted to give a smartphone app specific permissions when you install it, such as the right to read your data, use your camera, or listen to your microphone. These powers have genuine applications, but they could also be abused, so think carefully before granting the request. This is especially true for Android users because Google’s app-vetting procedure is less stringent than Apple’s, and there have been stories of harmful apps remaining on the Play Store for months before being discovered and removed.
Additionally, Android enables you to install apps from other sources, which not only makes it possible for services like Amazon’s rival Appstore to function but also makes it simple for malicious programmes to infiltrate your phone. Anything from a strange website should not be installed, in my opinion.
Review the contents of your phone
The apps on your phone may have looked straightforward and secure when you first installed them, but later upgrades may have changed that. Review all the apps on your phone for two minutes to check what permissions they are using. On iOS, go to Settings > Privacy to uncover a wealth of useful information.
The ability to see a list of which apps on Android have what rights is more difficult, but there are several security apps that can be helpful, including free versions of Avast and McAfee. Additionally, these tools can intervene and warn you if you’re attempting to install a malicious software and if a “phishing” assault is attempting to fool you into entering your password into an untrusted app or website.
Make it difficult for trespassers to enter
A thief might get into all kinds of trouble if they manage to gain physical access to your phone. To begin with, a wealth of personal data is presumably present in your email programme. When not in use, make sure your phone is locked. Both Android and iOS may be configured to require a six-digit passcode. Other alternatives, including fingerprint or facial recognition, might be available on your device. These techniques aren’t perfect; a dedicated hacker might be able to replicate your fingerprints from a glass of water or fool a camera with a picture of you; but they’re still a lot better than doing nothing.
Prepare yourself to locate and lock your phone
Prepare in advance to ensure that your data is secure even if your phone is taken. You can configure your phone to automatically wipe itself after a predetermined number of unsuccessful passcode entry tries.
If that seems a little extreme, keep in mind that both Apple and Google provide “find my device” services that allow you to locate your phone on a map and lock or erase it from a distance. If you’re an Apple customer, you can check if this is activated on your phone by going to Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone. Google’s service is available to Android users at google.co.uk/android/devicemanager. You may also make a lost phone ring, which is useful for locating a handset that has simply been misplaced or attracting the thief’s attention.
Keep online services locked when not in use
A virtual keyboard can make inputting passwords tedious, therefore auto-login is a highly useful function. Additionally, it poses a serious security risk because anyone with access to your browser can access all of your online accounts.
Therefore, it is best if you never utilise auto-login features. Use a password manager tool that forces you to frequently input a master password if you have to. Additionally, avoid using the same password across many apps or services because if it is discovered, it could be used to access a variety of confidential data. This holds true even if you take meticulous care to keep your smartphone safe: internet services are frequently attacked by hackers who steal user credentials, which they then exploit on other websites.
Become your alter ego
It should be incredibly challenging for anyone to access your phone if you’ve so far complied with this instructions. However, several significant hacks have been carried out completely cut off from the victim. Your date of birth, hometown, and mother’s maiden name are just a few examples of information that can be easily obtained from a website like Facebook and are frequently all that is required to change your password and begin accessing your accounts. In order to protect yourself from such attacks, you should make up information about your background that are unlikely to be discovered. For example, you can pretend that you were born in 1999 to Mrs. Victoria Beckham, née Adams. Just keep in mind what you said, otherwise you risk locking yourself out.
Caution: open WiFi
We are all aware that using an open wireless network carries some danger. You might not be aware of how serious it is, but anyone nearby can watch everything you do online. Although it’s doubtful that this kind of attack would present a risk in your neighbourhood café given the specialised software and abilities required, it’s still important to be aware of the risk.
Stay with your phone’s mobile internet connection if you have any reservations about a wireless network. Alternately, use a VPN programme like CyberGhost or TunnelBear (both available free for Android and iOS). Even if someone is watching your traffic, they won’t be able to see what these tools are doing because they route your traffic through a private encrypted channel.
Avoid letting the game’s notifications appear on your lockscreen
On the lockscreen of your phone, several apps display messages and notifications. It’s important to consider what these messages might indicate. A conspicuous email from a coworker or a meeting reminder, for instance, if you work for a large bank, alerts a burglar that this phone would be particularly valuable to steal.
Consider blocking access to Siri from the lockscreen on iOS as well. Before you enter your passcode to open the iPhone, Siri isn’t meant to reveal any personal information, but previous hacks have allowed attackers to use Siri to unlock the device, access contact information, and view images. The best course of action is to completely disable the feature; you can do this under Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Disable Siri on the Lockscreen.
Lock specific apps
Although a strong passcode can help prevent burglars from accessing your phone, what happens if someone steals it while you’re using it? Or requests to borrow it so they can check a website before running away down the street?
Even if someone manages to bypass your lockscreen on Android, they won’t be able to access your email or banking app without a second password because you may lock specific apps. Although the OS doesn’t come with this feature, many free applications do, including AVG AntiVirus Free. iOS users can’t directly lock certain apps, but you may password-protect your documents and folders using Folder Lock, a free tool available on the App Store, limiting the amount of information a thief can access.
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