Protect your privacy with tips from the Identity Fraud Institute at Hodges University

Important Security Settings for Your Smartphone


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By Carrie Kerskie, Director of the Identity Fraud Institute

Gone are the days when a telephone was just a telephone. Today, we use smartphones to help us stay connected, stay on track and find answers to anything from anywhere. In the past, if you wanted to do any of these things, you needed a computer. Yet, people don’t think of their smartphone as a mini computer, which means you need to take precautions to protect your privacy on your smartphone.

Lock It Down

Setting up a passcode on a smartphone is the first step to protecting your privacy. In the event your smartphone is lost or stolen, the passcode will prevent someone from accessing private information on your device. Depending on the type of device you are using, you may have to create a four or more character, numbers or letters or both, passcode that you will need to enter to use your device. Other devices will allow you to use your thumbprint to activate your device. If you are not familiar with this process, I would suggest you talk to your wireless carrier, or wherever you purchased your phone, and ask for assistance. You could also search the internet for detailed instructions.

Wi-Fi Connection

Woman using smart phone.Using Wi-Fi may be tempting as it allows you to use the internet without using your wireless data plan. However, this comes at a great risk. By allowing your device to automatically connect to any available Wi-Fi, you could easily connect to a malicious Wi-Fi. That malicious Wi-Fi could install malware, software with malicious intent, onto your device. Once on your device, the malware could send your information to the creator or it could remain dormant until you connect your device to your home or work computer. Your best defense against malicious Wi-Fi is to change your Wi-Fi settings to ask you before connecting to available networks. When your device detects available Wi-Fi networks, they will pop up on your screen asking you if you would like to connect, putting you in control.

Apps

There are applications (apps) for everything. You can use apps to access your bank account, to monitor your home security, to monitor your health, social networking and, of course, play games; however, they could pose a great risk to your privacy. Some apps may contain malware while others may access information that goes above and beyond what is necessary to run the app. An example of this would be flashlight apps. A few years ago, someone discovered many flashlight apps were accessing things such as contacts, location tracking, microphone, photographs and more. Why does a flashlight need your contacts to activate a light on your smartphone? It doesn’t. Some of the app companies were offering their flashlight app for free in exchange for selling your information to others. Here are a few things to consider before installing apps.

  1. Only install apps from an app store. For iPhones, use App Store on iTunes. For Androids, use Google Play.
  2. Before installing an app, read the terms of service/privacy policy to determine what information the app will access.
  3. Use an anti-virus to scan apps for potential malware, if applicable.
  4. During the installation process, your device may ask if you would like to allow the app to access to specific areas. If you do not agree, cancel the installation or block the access by choosing “don’t allow.”

Anti-Virus

This one applies more for Android users as there are very few, if any, anti-virus apps available for iPhone users. In 2015, Apple removed many of the so-called anti-virus apps from their app store. Most of these were merely data backup and phone finding apps. They did very little by way of scanning your device for viruses. Android users have numerous options, just as long as you download the app from Google Play. For independent reviews of mobile anti-virus apps, visit AV Test at www.av-test.org. Every year, they test and rate anti-virus software for various platforms, including mobile.

Using these tips will help you protect your privacy while allowing you to enjoy the benefits of your smartphone. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list. It is merely to get you started in the right direction. To learn more, register for the September 17 workshop, Privacy Settings for iPhone. Register online at https://www.hodges.edu/identity/events.aspx