Smartphone security practices help you defend your devices against malicious actors that hope to steal your data or gain access to your company's confidential information.
Think about all the information you store deep within your phone. And now, think about all of the data you can access with a few taps on your screen. Smartphone security steps ensure that you're the only one who can use these two sources of information.
4 known cell phone security threats
Creating a secure mobile environment begins with understanding the risks you face. Just having a handheld device can open you up to hacking threats. But you can keep them from impacting your everyday life.
These are four well-known mobile phone security threats:
- Applications: Open up the app store on your phone, and you'll see plenty of enticing programs that make your device better. Unfortunately, some of them come with security problems. For example, many Android apps contained malware designed to steal banking information, and screeners didn't catch that issue before the programs showed up in the store.
- Networks: Do you connect to the internet via WiFi hookups? Do you use Bluetooth to latch your device to things like headphones or speakers? Both of these access points could allow hackers to tap into your phone and take over.
- Theft: It’s estimated that thieves steal more than 70 million cell phones annually. Anyone who has physical possession of your cell phone could steal data from you.
- Websites: Phishing email messages can entrap you into giving up access. And malware embedded in website assets like links and photos could steal even more.
These are just some of the risks you can thwart with strong phone security practices.
10 smartphone security tips for users
Whether you're using a company device or one of your own, it's wise to think about what you can do to keep data safe and secure. These are a few good places to start.
Enhance your phone security with these tools:
- App distrust: Research before you install an app or program on your phone. Check out the developer. Read reviews. And perform a quick web search to see if others have privacy concerns about this product.
- Biometrics: Move past a password and use something like a fingerprint to unlock your phone.
- Bluetooth: Turn off this capability when you're not using it. And when you are, perform quick checks to see what you're linking to.
- Charging: So-called "juice jacking" involves loading malware onto public charging stations. If you plug into a corrupted charger, you could install malware onto your device. Keep a battery-powered device with you to charge on the go.
- Data encryption: Don't send sensitive information as attachments from your phone. Encrypt it first, or wait until you're on a protected line.
- Locking: Less than 30 percent of smartphone owners lock down their devices. If you aren't using this feature, enable it now.
- Remote wiping: Dig deep into your settings and ensure that you can wipe your device clean from your computer. If it's stolen, you can log in and protect your data from afar.
- Software: Keep anything loaded on your phone up-to-date. If developers upload security patches, you must implement them as quickly as possible.
- Two-factor authentication (2FA): Of all active Gmail accounts, 90 percent don't use 2FA. It is a hassle to require another device to log in to something you use every day. But this simple step keeps your data secure.
- Virtual private networks (VPNs): If you're using your phone in a public space (like a coffee shop), log in to your workplace with a VPN. All of your communication is encrypted and safe from hacking.
- WiFi: Don't use public networks to log onto the internet. And turn off your WiFi connectivity when it's not in use.
This is a long checklist. But each step is a critical part of phone security best practices.
5 mobile phone security tips for companies
Are you in charge of protecting security for an organization filled with cell phone users? Your work could help to keep critical assets sound and secure.
These six mobile phone security tips could help:
- Craft comprehensive policies. Determine what is and isn't allowed by each person within your company. Share those policies with the team, and ask them to review them annually.
- Monitor as needed. Talk with your company's legal team, and determine appropriate oversight rules. Explain them carefully to your employees, and use the data to track progress towards your goals.
- Protect devices. Some cell phones have protections built right in. Others do not. And sometimes, users disable these features in a bid to make their phones faster. Ensure company devices are updated regularly to ensure they have effective protection.
- Segment appropriately. Use role-based rules to limit access. For example, your receptionists may not need access to accounting data from company cell phones. Limit your risks accordingly.
- Train your staff. Educate employees how security breaches put the company at risk. Hold regular training about your rules, and ask all employees to prove they completed the training.
If you have no phone security rules now, your staff may balk at some of these steps. Explain the risks as carefully as you can, and you may convince them to cooperate with you.
Phone security tips by device type
Any cell phone comes with security risks. But the steps you take to mitigate those risks can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
If you have an Android device:
- Use pre-loaded security features. Dig deep into your settings, and turn on any preprogrammed features that come with your phone.
- Download more help. Take advantage of the Android security app to further protect your phone.
- Buy with care. Download apps from Google Play and nowhere else.
If you have an iPhone:
- Download updates. Ensure that you're working with the latest version of iOS.
- Protect from your computer. Link your phone and your computer, and turn on the "find my phone" feature. If you're separated from your device, you can still take control.
We'll reiterate that 2FA is critical for anyone working with a cell phone. If you're not exactly sure what this is or how it works, check out our blog post.
These Dangerous Android Apps Can Hijack Your Phone. What to Do Now. (March 2021). Tom's Guide.
3.1 Million Smartphones Were Stolen in 2013, Nearly Double the Year Before. (April 2014). Consumer Reports.
Traveling Through An Airport? Your Phone Could Get Hacked if You Charge It This Way. (November 2019). USA Today.
Americans and Cybersecurity. (January 2017). Pew Research Center.
Over 90 Percent of Gmail Users Still Don't Use Two-Factor Authentication. (January 2018). The Verge.
Is Your Cell Phone Policy Outdated? (July 2018). HR Payroll Systems.