While we may be used to security procedures for our work or home computers, we sometimes forget that today’s smartphones and tablets are also vulnerable to hacks and exploits. Smartphones are computers, after all, and they demand just as much attention to security as traditional desktop or laptop computers. Fortunately, by following these suggestions and understanding the types of vulnerabilities that affect modern devices, you can help keep all of your electronic devices as secure as possible.
It is important to not neglect the physical security of your devices. To reduce the risk of theft, try to minimize using the device in public areas. Do not store your device, particularly a smartphone, in an area where it could be pickpocketed, such as the external pockets of bags or clothing. If laptops must be left unattended for a period of time, consider investing in a laptop lock that can be secured to a desk or table.
Physical security also applies to your home wireless network. Try positioning your router away from walls, particularly walls to the outside of your house or apartment. This limits the range of your router’s signal and reduces the chance that a hacker will be able to reach your network.
Software updates do more than add useful features to applications. They also patch any recently discovered security holes or vulnerabilities. This is particularly true for operating system updates, which are often designed to provide overall system-level fixes. In order to ensure that your system is protected against the latest threats, always install any software updates as soon as they become available.
Strong passwords are typically the first line of defense against any attack and one of the easiest areas for improvement in system security. Make sure that your passwords are not easy to guess. For example, avoid using a name or birthday as your password, and try to avoid using the same password for multiple sites or services.
Smartphone users should ensure that their phones are protected by passcodes, such as the four-digit codes used by many popular devices. Devices should also be set to lock after a period of inactivity. As with computer passwords, passcodes should be difficult to guess. Avoid consecutive digits, birthdays or 1234.
For any portable electronic device, you should likely not enable any options to remember passwords. While convenient, saved passwords can potentially allow complete access to a device that has been compromised by a thief or hacker.
Some devices use Bluetooth technology to connect to external headsets, a computer mouse or keyboard. When these peripherals are not in use, however, it is important that Bluetooth be turned off. Skilled hackers can potentially exploit most any connection from your device to the “outside world.” While you should not let this dissuade you from taking advantage of Bluetooth or similar technologies, keeping remote connectivity disabled as much as possible reduces the chance a hacker will exploit your device.
If your device supports it, file encryption can be a great way to protect sensitive information. File encryption makes it very difficult to read data from a compromised computer, even if a thief has physical access to the device. While not as popular with tablets and smart phones, laptop computer operating systems can often be used to encrypt files or folders.
Be advised, however, that when you encrypt your files you do so by setting a master password that completely locks access to your data. As such, it is extremely important that you remember this password. Should you forget it, you will likely lose any data that had been encrypted.