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Mobile devices have revolutionized the way we interact and do business today. We use them regularly on a massive scale, both as casual everyday users and as industry professionals. On top of that, the amount of functions smartphones, laptops and tablets offer is virtually unprecedented. These technological advancements allow us to be productive from any spot on the planet with internet access. However, this also raises the question of how to improve mobile security and protect ourselves and our sensitive data from misuse. In the list below, we bring you the best steps to help you stay connected and secure.

Use Device Locks

This might come as a nuisance to some people, but keeping your mobile device locked is a great first step to improving mobile security. Without a device lock, anyone who has your phone or laptop can gain access to the data on your device. You can set a lock based on a numerical combination, a draw pattern, fingerprint or face recognition. Using a lock also prevents your device from activating by accident in your pocket or purse. If you’re worried about a third party getting a hold of your fingerprint, then simply opt for pattern or PIN unlocking.

Create Unique Passwords

It is easy and convenient to have the exact same password for all your online accounts, but this is the riskiest move you can make when it comes to mobile and digital security. It’s a matter of simple diversification.  Imagine you had one key for your house, car and safe deposit box. Then imagine someone stealing that key and the potential damage this could cause – the principle is the same. You can rely on password managers to help you create and store strong passwords and retrieve them when you need them. You can also create a list of passwords, but you shouldn’t keep it on your device. Stash it somewhere safe. 

Learn to Recognize Suspicious Links

Phishing, keyloggers, trojans and other forms of spyware and malware are most likely to infect your device through dangerous links. Whenever you receive emails, instant messages or text with links and attachments in them resist the urge to instant-click. Try to analyze the link or file to see if it is legitimate. If it’s coming from an unknown sender, chances are it’s a malicious attack script. A very common recent development is the emergence of encryption-based malware, known as ransomware. Once it’s active, this program takes your files hostage. The hackers then demand payment (often in cryptocurrencies) to provide you with a password to reclaim your files. Identifying such attempts will go a long way in keeping your devices and data safe.

Run Regular Software Updates

One predictable reality is the number of apps on our mobile devices just keeps on multiplying. The creators of reputable apps will deliver periodic updates to ensure proper functionality. Installing updates on your device can seem burdensome and can consume significant bandwidth but doing this is necessary for good mobile security. On the other hand, however, some app creators are not as diligent about security issues and matters of app upkeep.  We’ve previously talked in great detail about security debt and how it impacts software development and utilization.  Since not all apps are supported and maintained the same across the mobile device industry, adopting a good strategy is key. It is best practice to enable automatic updates to keep current with patch levels on apps and remove apps you no longer need.  You should also consider replacing the apps you need that have persistent security problems with safer alternatives if they exist.  Ultimately, automatic updates are a solid way to improve mobile security and get the latest patches for your protection.

Download from Reputable App Stores

Whether you’re an Android or iOS device user, make sure to download your apps only from trusted sources. This applies not only to smartphones, but also to tablets and laptops, smart watches and other connected devices. App stores such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store ensure that the software hosted there is not harmful. Leveraging this security due diligence will help you evade harmful third-party apps which can often leak your sensitive data. If you really need to install something that can’t be found in the mainstream channels, conduct thorough research beforehand. There are numerous tech forums online where you can check the reputation of mobile apps and determine their mobile security level.

Use Virtual Private Networks (VPN)

Virtual private networks offer much needed online anonymity, which is especially useful when conducting online transactions. However, where VPNs really shine is in situations where your device is using open wi-fi. This is typical for coffee shops or malls, as their open wi-fi networks have scores of users and often poor security. This exposes you to cyberattacks and can lead to digital and financial theft. Installing a highly rated VPN app for your mobile device can hide your device on open networks and enhance security.

Perform Regular Cloud Backups

Despite the massive advancements in the area of cloud storage and data protection, many users still keep large amounts of data on their local storage. We all like having photos or songs at our disposal without having to be online, and this is fine. Nevertheless, when it comes to security, the best thing to do is to perform regular cloud backups of your data. Cloud servers are well-run and constantly maintained, and they can store all your apps, data and accounts safely. If you choose to change your device, or if someone steals it, you can always use your cloud to retrieve your precious data.

Enable Remote Phone Wiping

In case all else fails, there’s still a way to prevent your data from falling into the wrong hands. The way to do this is to enable the remote wiping of all your personal data on your device. This happens most often when a device has been stolen and there is plenty of sensitive information on it. If you’ve previously managed to back it up to a cloud server, you will be able to retrieve it and use it on a new device. Simultaneously, you will block the thieves from accessing your private data.

As technology evolves, so does our need to learn how to use it securely and safely. Following these principles and best practices can equip you with the necessary skills to improve mobile security so you can enjoy your device and enhance the safekeeping of your data.