How can you keep your smartphone secure?

We all know about the need to protect computers from viruses and cyber-attacks – and most of us pay money to keep our devices safe from these ever-evolving threats.

Yet for some reason, a surprising number of us don't take the same precautions with our mobile phones.

In fact, research by Virgin Media has found that only 34 per cent of people have installed anti-virus software on their handset.

That's surprising when you consider that 94 per cent of respondents to the same poll believe data security is important.

Furthermore, figures showed that 9.4 million Britons (or nearly one in five mobile phone users) have been victims of cyber-crime at some point in their lives.

Millions of us routinely use our phones to do everything from checking emails to logging into our bank account, or even accessing sensitive work-related data.

But Virgin Media warns that a “worryingly high” proportion of people are making basic security errors, from using unprotected Wi-Fi networks for sensitive online activity to storing passwords on their handsets.

Dr Jessica Barker, director of cyber.uk, pointed out that people are increasingly aware of cyber-security and agree it is important.

However, she said the fact many are failing to keep the information on their smartphones safe shows they find cyber-security “difficult and overwhelming”.

“It does not need to be this way and security online is increasingly important,” she commented.

“With phones becoming more powerful and connected, people use them to do internet banking, shopping, sharing content on social media and even sending intimate selfies.

“This information can be vulnerable to attack, like anything on the internet, but there are lots of straightforward steps you can take to better-protect yourself and your data.”

Here are just a few of Dr Barker's recommendations…

Use strong passwords

Don't use passwords that can be easily guessed by others and make sure you use a mix of letters, numbers and special characters in your PINs. Also, use a different password for every account you have, as this will lessen the impact if one password is compromised.

Install updates

Don't delay installing updates when your phone prompts you to do so. These updates are often designed to reduce your handset's vulnerability to hacking, so shouldn't be ignored.

Use secure networks for sensitive tasks

Many public Wi-Fi networks don't have the tightest security. So if you don't know how secure the network you're using actually is, refrain from doing anything that involves handling sensitive data, such as online banking. In the event that you really need to log into your account, use a Virtual Private Network instead for added security.

Think twice before downloading attachments and clicking links in emails

Any unsolicited attachments or links in emails should be treated with suspicion, as this could easily be an attempt to hack your device.

Be cautious before downloading apps

Not every app is credible and trustworthy, so you should be wary before downloading anything you've not heard of. If you need assurances that an app is okay, head online to see what other people have said about it first.

Back up any data

If your phone is stolen or mislaid, precious photos and documents can be lost forever. But if you make sure everything is backed up, you haven't really lost anything that can't be easily replaced.

The message to take away from this is that your smartphone is just as much of a computer as your laptop and should be protected in the same way.

Install anti-virus software, be selective about which networks you connect to and be clever with your passwords.

Otherwise, you run the risk of having your sensitive data compromised, which could be costly – both financially and emotionally.

Written by Mazuma

Mazuma Mobile is the UK's most trusted mobile phone recycling service.

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