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Phone Smarts

  • Keep your screen locked with a PIN code or password. This adds an extra layer of difficulty for an unauthorized user.
  • All major mobile operating systems offer remote services. Install and enable whatever your phone supports. Options differ by system, but can include the ability to delete your files, lock your phone remotely or find it using GPS location.
  • If your phone allows for data encryption, use it. This protects data stored on external memory cards as well as SD cards installed in the device.
  • Mobile malware is on the rise. It isn’t enough to protect your PC against threats. Your smartphone needs antivirus software, too.
  • Take the time to download software updates. Like their PC counterparts, they often include patches for security flaws recently detected.
  • Don’t provide personal information when using public WiFi or personal Bluetooth. You can browse online shopping sites, but wait until you’re in a secure setting before sending your credit card number. Save your online banking chores or visiting any sites requiring a login/password for a time when you can do it securely.
  • Exploring all of those neat apps can turn your phone into an entertainment experience. But unless you’re using a Blackberry, those apps can be distributed by some unscrupulous folks. Only download apps from sites you trust. Check its rating and read reviews first.
  • Read the small print to learn what information the app will access. Stay clear of any app that wants access to any personal information, text messages or location that doesn’t seem important to its function.
  • As you’ve learned with traditional email, don’t click on links sent by users you don’t know or appear suspicious. Smishing, a combination of SMS texting and phishing, has become quite common.
  • Like your PC, create a backup plan. Backup your data often. All important data should be saved at least twice, in separate locations. If your remote service utility includes a weekly backup, choose a mid-cycle day to backup to your computer as well.
  • Turn WiFi, Bluetooth and other connections off when you’re not using them. Turn them on only when you need them.
  • Connect through only known access points. Avoid networks with a generic name like “linksys.”

Public Wi-Fi Hotspot Safety

Public wireless hotspots are everywhere these days. Whether you’re sitting at a gate waiting for your connecting flight or downing a Big Mac at McDonald’s, you can fire up your laptop and make your downtime productive. But public Wi-Fi hotspots seldom provide a secure connection. Here are some things you can do to surf safely:

  • Some hotspots do offer some form of encryption. In Windows Vista and XP, a lock will display when you open the wireless connections dialog box. In Windows 7, left-click the wireless network connections icon and hover your mouse over each SSID displayed. Choose the connection with the strongest security. WPA2 offers the highest level, then WPA. WEP should be your last resort. A secure connection will require a password. Hotels often provide them to guests, other establishments may do the same.
  • Set your Network Connection to Public in Windows 7. In earlier versions, turn off file sharing. This makes your data less visible to snoopers.
  • Avoid doing your online banking, logging into your credit card accounts or any site requiring login credentials from a public Wi-Fi. Save these tasks for when you’re home on your secure connection.
  • Don’t allow your browser or a website you visit to remember your password. These are saved in a file that can be intercepted.
  • If you travel with your laptop, remove sensitive data like spreadsheets, bank files or documents with your social security number first. Save them on your home machine or a removable device you can leave somewhere safe.
  • Make sure your firewall is active. Take a minute to double check. You may have turned it off for a software install and forgot to turn it back on.