5 tips for better mobile phone security

As technology becomes a more and more important part of our daily lives, the risks of exposure to hacking and malicious software are constantly growing. The good news is that you can take a few quick and easy measures to better protect yourself and your device.

1. Avoid public WiFi
I’ve been there—at the airport or in the local coffee shop and desperate for wireless connectivity. I know I shouldn’t but sometimes I do connect to public WiFi. Networks that are open to the public and readily available in many corners of the world are hotbeds for snooping. Anyone with access to the network can view other people’s browsing behavior. If you must connect to public WiFi, avoid doing anything that involves payment or passwords (like online shopping or logging into Facebook).

If you have an Android phone, you can download the Secure Wireless app by Disconnect Inc. from the Google Play store. This app can help you fend of snoopers and stop tracking companies from collecting data on your online behavior without your knowledge.

2. Keep your apps up to date
Ever wonder why you keep getting nagged to install app updates? There’s a good reason for the frequent releases and pesky reminders to install them—they help keep secure the plethora of personal information stored on your phone. Many apps store sensitive information, like your credit card payment information or personal contacts. Engineers often find security vulnerabilities in their apps and fix them by releasing new versions of the software with improved security.

If you don’t want to update an app—maybe you noticed it performed slowly after you downloaded the most recent software version—you can check the release-change log to see if the updates have security impacts. You can typically find the release notes in the app’s profile at the Google Play store (Android) or the App Store (iOS). If the change log references a security fix, it’s important that you install the update as soon as possible.

3. Log out of sites after you make a payment
Online shopping on your mobile phone can make life easier because it’s so convenient. But there’s nothing convenient about chasing down fraudulent charges. If you’re making online purchases, get in the habit of signing out of the app or webpage when your payment is complete. This helps stop hackers from accessing your payment information or making purchases through online accounts you’re logged into.

4. Block your phone number when necessary
Some companies will collect your phone number (and all the information attached to it) when you call them. If you’re calling a company or individual you don’t have a relationship with, you can block your phone number beforehand by dialing *67 before you enter the phone number you’re calling. (Note that 800 numbers can’t be caller ID blocked.)

5. Don’t pick up calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize
Sometimes telemarketers will call phone numbers just to see if they’re held by real people. If you pick up the call, you effectively validate that you’re a real person to the telemarketer, who may then sell your number to other companies.

If you sometimes need to answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize, like calls from potential clients or, say, your doctor’s office, consider installing a caller ID app to help weed out spam. Try an app recommended by CNET called Truecaller: Number Search & Spam Identification, which is available at the App Store for iOS or Google Play for Android.

You don’t have to be a security expert to fend off spam and hackers. Get in the habit of taking a few extra steps like those listed above to keep your personal data secure when you’re on your mobile phone.