Online security is becoming an ever-increasing concern as people use their mobile devices for virtually everything, from online banking to job applications to Christmas shopping. How can you feel safe while using your own mobile device? Here are a few tips that will help you keep your personal information secure.
Set Device Passcodes
It might seem like a hassle to have to login to your laptop, tablet and phone every time you use them, but the security that it provides far outweighs the inconvenience. (Let’s be honest, it only takes a few seconds to enter a passcode.) According to Consumer Reports, 3.1 million mobile phones were stolen in 2013. Think about the information that you have stored on your phone—do you really want anyone else to have access to that? Setting up passcodes on your mobile devices can not only provide security in the event of theft, but also protect your mobile device from viruses that could compromise your information.
If you do use your phone or tablet for mobile banking, shopping or other functions that involve important personal or financial information, you should also consider setting passcodes for those apps. Most financial and banking apps will give you the option of setting a passcode, and another level of security never hurts.
Employ Strong Passwords
You’ve heard this before, but the importance of using strong passwords cannot be stressed enough! Make sure you are not using the same password for multiple accounts—each password you use should be unique. The general rule of thumb is to include at least 12 characters and use a variety of numbers, symbols and lower-case and capital letters. Of course, remembering all of these unique passwords can be tricky; you might want to consider using a password manager that will safely store your passwords for you.
Update Your Operating Systems
Always make sure that your operating systems are up-to-date, whether on your laptop, tablet or phone. Operating system updates often contain security improvements that could ensure continued and improved protection for your device. Check your operating systems regularly for available updates and download them at your earliest convenience.
Employ Anti-Virus Software
If you are accessing the Internet on your laptop—even if you are using a secure network—you should protect your device with an anti-virus software. The number of active viruses grows daily, and without an anti-virus software, your device could be vulnerable to these threats. Reliable anti-virus software will require an annual fee, but it is a small cost to pay for peace of mind.
Use Caution With Public Wi-Fi
When using public Wi-Fi networks, there are a few things you’ll want to do to ensure that the person sitting next to you is not hijacking your device. First of all, avoid using unencrypted public networks (open networks that are not secured with a password, such as those at airports). Secondly, when you connect to any public network on your laptop, make sure that you employ the public network connection setting, which will ensure that your device’s firewall is still enabled. Thirdly, avoid using a public Wi-Fi network for any function that could compromise your personal or financial information, such as mobile banking or shopping.
Are You Sure You Need That App?
Be cautious when downloading or purchasing apps on your phone or tablet. Just because the app costs money doesn’t mean that it is safe. Stick with the official marketplaces, like Apple and Amazon, and pay attention to the permissions that the app is requesting during the installation process. Does that app really need to access your social media account or your camera? There are a plethora of apps that can infect your device with malware, so be aware of what you are downloading.
Back Up Your Data
If you do lose your phone, you don’t want to lose all of your information. Back up the important data on your device regularly. This can be done simply and easily using a cloud storage system, such as Apple’s iCloud or, for your laptop, an external hard drive. Backing up your data not only ensures that you don’t lose it with your device, but also provides a good way to keep your device clean and remove any unessential or sensitive material, limiting the material that someone else could access if you do lose it.
While hacking techniques are constantly advancing, these tried-and-true methods can help to keep your personal information and mobile devices secure. If you have not yet employed these tips, consider doing so now. It will be worth the small inconvenience to have some peace of mind, knowing that you did your part to secure your information.