Would you trust your smartphone with your life?

Smartphone security is, of course, essential these days, but how confident are you in your device's ability to help keep you safe and secure?

Smartphone security is, of course, essential these days, but how confident are you in your device’s ability to help keep you safe and secure?

The stealthy rise of the smartphone has been steady but sure. At first we were dubious, using them sparingly. Then we became accustomed to using them as tools for communication. This gave way to our becoming reliant on them. Now, they’re so irreplaceable we don’t even question them. That’s smart.

So, what’s up?

You’ve just finished up at a business meeting in a part of town you’ve not been to before. Vaguely conscious of your actions, within in a minute you’ve requested “get me home” from an app on your smartphone and it’s calculated your best route. Great! You’re off. You quickly check your emails as you set off. You haven’t thought twice about it.

What’s wrong with that?

Nothing, as long as you’re not using a public Wi-Fi network. If you are, you might be baring all to loitering cybercriminals monitoring the network’s traffic. And once they’ve spotted an easy target, well, depending on the circumstances, there are multiple avenues to take (including, for example, a man-in-the-middle attack).

That’s a bit disconcerting. What else should I be aware of?

Do you use Facebook on your phone? A fitness app? Well, consider the following – Facebook is following you around the internet, while your fitness apps, which help to whip you into shape, basically know where you are all the time.

Surely those companies want to protect their users?

Yes and no. Your data is useful to them. They want to know what websites you visit, what your favourite high-street stores are, and how many steps you’ve taken that day. In return, they’ll show you more relevant ads, your shopping experiences will become more enjoyable and your fitness will improve (maybe). Yes, it’s a little creepy, and yes, if you like, it’s a form of spying.

There must be something I can do about this.

The good news is there is – but it involves a bit of effort:

  1. Check Wi-Fi networks

There are ways to use public Wi-Fi with minimal risk. For example, check that the Wi-Fi name is real – with a member of staff – ensure sharing functionalities on your smartphone are off, and avoid using banking apps on public, unencrypted networks.

  1. Control your apps

Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you aren’t using your apps. This may be easier said than done, given the constantly “on” world we live in, but it’s a valid sacrifice if you want to increase your privacy. You can alternatively turn off “location services” in your settings, which at least blocks access to where you are.

Finally, check your privacy settings for each individual app. Time-consuming, but time well spent.

  1. Stay street-wise

This is often just a case of using your initiative. Create strong passwords – one unique, lengthy and complex one for each site – activate two-factor authentication; in short, own your online presence.

Only install apps from a legitimate source, and think before you grant them permission to access your data. Do you really need the extra convenience?

Always, always update your software.

  1. Maintain your cover

It’s crucial that your phone is fully wiped of all data before you sell it. Would you hand your bank card and your house keys to a stranger if you were relocating? The same applies to your digital life.

Take back control

We make daily decisions based on our smartphones, which are increasingly replacing our better instincts with the auto-generated intelligence we take as a legitimate authority. By ensuring our trust is well-placed, we can harness the growing power of technology and use it to our advantage.

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