7 smartphone security tips

Lookout, a mobile security startup, suggests seven tips to staying safe on your smartphone. Whether you use your smartphone for business or pleasure, securing the computer in your pocket is just as important as securing the computer on your desk.

As you travel, shop, and live with your smartphone this holiday season, follow these seven easy tips to help stay safe:

1. Set a password on your phone.
Especially while traveling, people tend to lose their phones in airports, cabs, and other public places. Setting a password is the simplest way to keep your data safe if your phone goes AWOL during the hustle and bustle of holiday travel. Make sure that your password is strong enough so that a thief can’t easily guess it.

2. Always keep an eye on your phone while traveling.
As you’re going through airport security, watch your phone as it enters the x-ray machine and retrieve it immediately when it comes out—thieves will often steal phones during the few seconds where people don’t pay attention as they go through the metal detector. If you set your phone down on a counter or table, don’t let it out of your sight.

3. Don’t click on links in text messages from people you don’t trust.
As they do with email, spammers use text messages to install spyware and steal or “phish” your information. Make sure that whenever you click on a link in a text message, you trust the person who sent it. Even if you’ve been doing some recent holiday shopping, online stores, your bank, or your carrier won’t ask to “verify” your account information. Be especially careful if you are traveling to Europe or Asia, where we have seen a much higher rate of text message spam.

4. Keep Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off when you aren’t using them.
Airports, coffee shops, and hotels are especially attractive targets for hackers around the holidays, as they can use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to attack phones and steal information. The easiest way to stay safe (and conserve battery) is to turn Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off when you aren’t using them. When you use Bluetooth, make sure it is in non-discoverable mode. When you use Wi-Fi, always try to use an encrypted network or use a VPN if your work has one, otherwise, hackers can easily “sniff” your data out of the air.

5. Back up your data.
Before leaving on a trip, be sure to back up your data—it only takes a few minutes. If you happen to lose your phone (or accidently drop it in the punch bowl), you’ll be up and running in no time.

6. Apply software/firmware updates from your carrier or phone vendor.
Carriers and phone manufacturers routinely provide software or firmware updates to fix security vulnerabilities that hackers can use to attack your phone. Even if you get a brand new phone, it may be out of date. Check on the carrier or phone manufacturer’s website for any available updates and be sure to apply updates as soon as they are available in the future. Just like a desktop or laptop computer, staying up to date is your first line of defense from hackers and viruses.

7. Only download applications from reputable sources.
Getting a new phone? The first thing you will likely do is download apps—lots of them. You will probably download more apps on your phone than you have on your computer. Make sure to download responsibly: it is safer to use application marketplaces provided by your carrier or phone vendor than to download directly from the web. Some sites have hosted repackaged versions of popular mobile apps—such as Google Maps—that include spyware. Malware and spyware can still sneak in to marketplaces however, so be careful, especially with applications from unknown developers that have poor ratings or low download numbers.

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