How Secure is Your Mobile Device

December 6, 2016  Media, PA
Tech Insight

In a world where people rely on their mobile devices for financial tasks like paying bills and shopping online, it’s important to make sure your device—and the private information stored on it—is as protected as possible from mobile security threats. Answer these questions to help determine if your mobile device is secure—and if not, what you can do about it.

1. Do you use your fingerprint, biometrics or a password to help protect your mobile device?

Enabling a passcode, fingerprint or other biometric login for your mobile device helps safeguard your information in the event your device is lost or stolen. As with any password or passcode, don’t share it with anyone. Also, for optimum mobile security, don’t allow friends or family to enroll in fingerprint or other biometric authentication on your device.

2. Do you use strong passwords and change them every 90 days?

For both the device itself, and the tools and apps on it, it’s essential to use strong passwords. Try to make them long and complex, using letters, numbers and symbols, and try to avoid real words if you can. It also helps if they are unique and memorable for you, though you shouldn’t include information such as your Social Security number, birthday or phone number. Remember to change your passwords every few months. And for sites where it’s available, consider using two-factor authentication which adds another layer of security to your account by requiring you to enter a code, sent by text or email, before you sign in.

3. Do you have unique passwords for your banking apps?

Don’t use your banking password for any other sites. Fraudsters know many people reuse passwords, so they may use this stolen information to try to access bank accounts. Using unique passwords helps reduce this risk.

4. Have you turned on notifications and alerts to track your bank account activity?

When you set up alerts through your bank’s website or mobile app, you’ll receive customizable notifications about your account. You can choose to be notified about suspicious transactions or attempts to change your personal information like your address or ID. This will help you stay informed about possible account risks

5. Do you install automatic updates to keep your software up to date?

While it can be easy to postpone installing updates on your devices, keeping your software current is a crucial part of your mobile security. Updates include repairs to existing bugs and security issues so your devices can run smoothly and safely.

6. Do you make sure the apps you download are from a trusted app store or a reputable company?

It’s safest to download apps from the official app store for your device; this means that the app has been verified and is less likely to be suspicious. In addition, you should thoroughly review an app’s permissions to find out what access it has to information and functions on your device.

7. Are you careful not to open or reply to email, text messages or pop-ups from unknown sources?

Don’t reply to emails requesting things like your credit card number, bank account information or any personal details. Even if the email appears to be from a legitimate financial institution, forward it to your bank, then delete it. You should also be cautious about replying to unexpected text messages. Thieves use this text-based version of phishing—known as SMiShing—and take advantage of the urgent nature of texts to catch you off guard. Also, don’t download attachments or click on links in a text, email or pop-up unless you are absolutely certain they’re safe.

8. Do you avoid open or unknown Wi-Fi networks, especially when you use your banking apps?

As convenient as it is to check your account balance while you’re out and about, it might leave your sensitive account information at risk. You should never access your bank accounts through an open or unsecured Wi-Fi network unless you’re using a VPN (virtual private network), which will encrypt your private data such as your ID and password.

9. Do you maintain an air of mystery on social media?

There’s nothing like an online birthday celebration with warm wishes posted by everyone from your high school biology teacher to your boss, but your birthdate is just the sort of information someone can use to try to steal your identity. You don’t have to go birthday-free on Facebook or other social media, but you could hide the year, or make sure strong privacy settings are in place. Protect your other personal information—including your address, phone number, email, and of course, your Social Security number—from anyone on social media who doesn’t really need it. If you want to get your phone number to someone, for example, send it by private or direct message instead of posting it publicly. And be cautious about revealing where you are and when you’re away from home. For example, wait until you’re back from your vacation before you post the photos of your toes on the beach.

10. Have you "rooted" or "jailbroken" your phone?

Some people hack their own mobile devices—a process known as "rooting" (on Android phones) or "jailbreaking" (on iOS devices)—in order to gain access to a greater variety of apps and functions. But doing this not only voids your warranty, it can remove manufacturer built-in security and leave your device open to malware attacks. It’s best to leave your phone or tablet as is.

By following these mobile security guidelines, you’ll be taking a major step to help keep your mobile device—and your personal information and finances—safe and secure.

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