Can’t live without your cell phone? You’re not alone. According to Pew Research Center, 90 percent of adults in the U.S. own one. Forty-four percent admit to sleeping with it to avoid missing calls and text messages. But as addicted to our devices as we might be, many of us are not taking adequate security measures to protect ourselves while using one.
With the speed of access that a smart phone gives us, come a bevy of security risks. Consider: Fifty-eight percent of adult cell phone owners have smartphones and use them to access the Internet, send and receive emails, download apps, get directions, listen to music, engage with social media and more. Some of these activities expose them to criminals with nefarious intentions such as the theft of personal or financial information. In fact, a recent report from Norton, an antivirus and security software company, found that one in three smartphone users had already experienced some form of cybercrime. That number is only expected to rise.
Keeping your mobile phone secure—and protecting the valuable information within it—actually isn’t difficult. Experts suggest the following to maintain safety while still making the most of your smartphone productivity.
Add a password. If you haven’t password protected your smartphone, you’re basically giftwrapping easy access to your personal information for anyone who picks it up. According to Norton, 25 percent of smartphone users have had their phone lost or stolen. The minimal time it takes to enter a password each time you want to use the device is well worth the added protection.
Install a protective app. According to Symantec, thirty-six percent of malicious mobile activity was designed to steal data in 2014, compared with 17 percent in 2013. If malware infects your smartphone, it can steal your financial information—especially if you regularly use your device to make purchases or bank online. You can find free smartphone security apps from companies such as Norton in the Google Play and Apple App stores.
Turn off automatic connections. Some smartphones have settings that allow for automatic connection to available Wi-Fi networks. Disable this option and you’ll prevent your device from connecting and transmitting data without your knowledge. Fraudulent Wi-Fi networks are increasingly prevalent. Criminals typically set up a free network with a name similar to an establishment such as a coffee shop. Then they wait for patrons to connect to the network so they can collect their information.
Be a smart shopper. Shopping on your phone is certainly convenient. However, experts urge consumers to use caution when making online purchases away from home. Never enter private information, like bank account or credit card numbers, unless you’re certain the network and website is secure. Set your home Wi-Fi network up with a password and only make purchases from websites with urls that start with “https” rather than “http.”
Remember, a smartphone is basically a computer. There’s no reason not to protect it just as you protect your home PC. And if you’d like to explore how identity theft insurance can protect you from losses in the event of a cybercrime, contact your insurance professional.