Anxiously waiting for that new iPhone 12 to drop?! Well, what doesn’t drop is the number of cyberattacks on unsuspecting device users. In fact, due to COVID-19 cyberattacks such as phishing and malware had the biggest increase during last spring – from a few thousand in February to hundreds of thousands in April. If that number doesn’t scare you enough, the U.S. alone has detected a 300% increase in cybercrime after the pandemic started and your mobile phones are as vulnerable to these threats as any device (smart kitchen appliances including). So in this week’s blog post, find out what dangers are looming for your unprotected gadget and what steps you need to take to ensure its bulletproof security.
Types of cyberattacks on mobile devices
To be clear most threats to mobile devices are exactly the same as for desktop or laptops. However, mobile device security is somehow forgotten as people tend to regard phones as a safer technology in itself. While some of it’s true as manufacturers constantly improve the OS and fix the security gaps in their codes, still 90% of cyber breaches happen due to human error and being too lazy to password protect your new mobile phone.
Take a look at what cyber threats you’re facing with an unsecured device:
- Phishing – a type of cyberattack with the highest rate of success. Criminals exploit emails or messaging apps to get access to sensitive information.
- Malware – malicious software or file that can infect the device and supply access for the criminals to gather personal data, a.k.a. don’t click that link.
- Ransomware – something that sounds like a movie scenario: basically, a user is locked out of personal information on their devices until they pay a ransom. Yes, that happens in real life.
- Spyware – a digital spy or rather software that infiltrates your phone and secretly collects data.
- Malicious websites & apps – a gateway for malware and data leakage. Some are built for that purpose, some infected by hackers with criminal intent.
- Unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots – a bonus for your local cafe, a huge minus for a user who connects and leaves himself vulnerable for others to connect and steal their unencrypted data.
- Device theft – the most direct way to get and exploit personal data for criminal gain. Super easy too as studies show that 52% are likely not to password-protect their phones. We know – it’s hard to believe.
Steps to ensure that your device is cybercrime-proof
So you bought a new mobile device, now what? Do you get anti-virus right away?! While this one is certainly a viable option for you to pick and protect your personal data, there are some other things you should consider to shield yourself from as many threats as possible.
Step 1. The one you shouldn’t skip – lock your screen
Mobile phones provide a variety of options: set up fingertip, face, or other biometric identification method as well as a password or pattern lock as a backup to unlocking your phone. Usually, the original setup requires every individual to set two lock options, however, what it doesn’t require is to set auto-lock timing. Take a look at your settings and set your phone to lock the screen automatically after the 30s or less after being idle. This will protect your data if you lose it or someone steals your device. Another option to prevent data leakage is activating “find my device service” from your OS provider, so you can lock your data remotely in case of an emergency.
Step 2. Keep your settings on point
Remember those malicious apps we mentioned earlier? Make sure that you give permission to access functions and personal data only to those apps that you trust to be safe. Better yet, remove all the unnecessary ones from your phone and keep it clean, less susceptible to attacks through apps that you don’t actually use. And remember that update notif that you hit “snooze” on yesterday?! Updates sometimes fix the security gaps in OS and make it more trustworthy so if you need to update – no time like the present.
Step 3. Flex those passwords
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but “pass123” isn’t going to cut it if you want to keep yourself safe from hackers. And using the same password on numerous accounts doesn’t work as well, since if one is breached – others are in danger, too. That’s quite a common mistake, however, remembering a dozen strong passwords isn’t something a human mind can realistically do – get a password manager to do it for you. And for extra security, add that 2FA on top to thicken the layer of protection. Works against overly curious family members, too.
Step 4. VPN is your friend
Like to work from coffee shops? Free wi-fi and good coffee – we get it. Yet the unsafe connection makes your data extremely vulnerable – a hacker with enough knowledge can access everything you’re doing, grab login credentials, and much more. Slap on that VPN and make your device impenetrable.
Step 5. Keep that wary attitude
Suspicious website, link, app, hotspot – run screaming: never click, download, visit, or connect. And God forbid, don’t give permissions to any untrustworthy software. It’s also healthy to set up your bank app to notify you when transfers are made – that way you’ll be able to detect criminal activity much quicker. The same goes for every other app – monitor your notifications and if you see anything fishy going on react instantly as it can result in anything from a simple purchase on Amazon to a full-blown identity theft.