From coffee shops to planes, trains, and cruise ships, we’ve become accustomed to having ready access to the Internet just about anywhere. The problem is, it’s easy to forget how vulnerable that makes us to security threats.
How Your Gadgets May Be Vulnerable
Whether you’re traveling with a laptop, netbook, smartphone, iPad, or all of the above, the risks and defenses against them are basically the same, according to Joe Nocera, an information security expert and a principal with PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Many of the security concerns that people think about when they think about their personal computers are applicable in the mobile world.” As mobile devices become more sophisticated, they lend themselves to the same types of access to e-mail, passwords, and other secure information that PCs have done in the past.
The good news is it’s not difficult or even expensive to protect your devices and the information on them. The fixes are simple. The problem, stated quite eloquently in an old Pogo comic strip, is: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
10 Tips for Keeping Your Mobile Devices Secure
1. Make sure your software is up-to-date.
2. Employ strong passwords. “Be sure to use some combination of letters, numbers and/or special characters of 8 characters or more,” says Jeremy Miller, director of operations for Kroll Fraud Solutions.
3. Don’t mess with the security settings. Nocera notes that most of the default browser settings in Android, iPhone, and Blackberry phones are fairly secure out of the box.
4. Avoid unencrypted public wireless networks. Such Wi-Fi networks require no authentication or password to log into, so anyone can access them–including the bad guys. Besides avoiding connecting to unencrypted networks, turn off Wi-Fi when you’re not using it.
5. Paying to access a Wi-Fi network doesn’t mean it’s secure. Access fees do not equal security.
6. URLs beginning with ‘https:’ are safer (but not foolproof). Whenever you’re accessing a site where you’ll be sharing personal or confidential information–your bank’s site, for example–you want to make sure that you’re doing so securely.
7. Use VPN. If you have access to a VPN (virtual private network), use it. A VPN provides secure access to an organization’s network and allows you to get online behind a secure layer that protects your information.
8. Turn off cookies and autofill. If your mobile device automatically enters passwords and login information into Websites you visit frequently, turn that feature off. It’s convenient, but it can also be a privacy threat.
9. Watch your apps! Apps are great, and many are free, so it can be tempting to download with abandon.
If You Still Get Hacked…
If you do everything right and still have your information stolen, what should you do? The damage can often be repaired simply by changing your password (to one much stronger) and sending a message via the network that was affected, explaining what happened. What if one of your devices gets stolen? Be sure that all of your mobile devices have a remote wipe or autowipe feature. For Apple’s iPhone and iPad, there’s Apple’s MobileMe service. GoogleApps offers a solution for Android as well. If your device is lost or you know there’s been a breach, you can quickly and remotely perform a factory reset from any computer connected to the Internet, wiping out all of the device’s data and even locking it indefinitely.